Transgenic rabbits expressing ovine PrP are susceptible to scrapie


  • Sarradin Pierre
  • Viglietta Celine
  • Limouzin Claude
  • Andreoletti Olivier
  • Daniel-Carlier Nathalie
  • Barc Celine
  • Leroux-Coyau Mathieu
  • Berthon Patricia
  • Chapuis Jerome
  • Rossignol Christelle
  • Gatti Jean-Luc
  • Belghazi Maya
  • Labas Valérie
  • Vilotte Jean-Luc
  • Béringue Vincent
  • Lantier Frédéric
  • Laude Hubert
  • Houdebine Louis-Marie


  • Rabbits
  • Animal prion diseases
  • Prions
  • Scrapie
  • Genetically modified animals
  • Sheep
  • Veterinary diseases
  • Brain diseases


Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are a group of neurodegenerative diseases affecting a wide range of mammalian species. They are caused by prions, a proteinaceous pathogen essentially composed of PrPSc, an abnormal isoform of the host encoded cellular prion protein PrPC. Constrained steric interactions between PrPSc and PrPC are thought to provide prions with species specificity, and to control cross-species transmission into other host populations, including humans. Transgenetic expression of foreign PrP genes has been successfully and widely used to overcome the recognized resistance of mouse to foreign TSE sources. Rabbit is one of the species that exhibit a pronounced resistance to TSEs. Most attempts to infect experimentally rabbit have failed, except after inoculation with cell-free generated rabbit prions. To gain insights on the molecular determinants of the relative resistance of rabbits to prions, we generated transgenic rabbits expressing the susceptible V136R154Q171 allele of the ovine PRNP gene on a rabbit wild type PRNP New Zealand background and assessed their experimental susceptibility to scrapie prions. All transgenic animals developed a typical TSE 6-8 months after intracerebral inoculation, whereas wild type rabbits remained healthy more than 700 days after inoculation. Despite the endogenous presence of rabbit PrPC, only ovine PrPSc was detectable in the brains of diseased animals. Collectively these data indicate that the low susceptibility of rabbits to prion infection is not enciphered within their non-PrP genetic background.

more information