Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of General Virology (2004), 85, 1339–1346


Chronic wasting disease (CWD) status and PrP genotypes were determined for a group of 133 wild white-tailed deer in a 780 acre enclosure in western Nebraska, USA. Approximately half of the deer tested showed evidence of PrPd in the brainstem or lymphoid tissues. Four PRNP alleles encoding amino acid substitutions were identified, with substitutions at residues 95 (Q→H), 96 (G→S) or 116 (A→G), each with serine (S) at residue 138. In addition, a processed pseudogene with two alleles encoding five or six copies of the octapeptide repeat was identified in 26% of the deer. Both alleles encoded asparagine (N) at residue 138. The functional gene alleles sorted into five major diploid genotypes and four rare genotypes. Although all five major diploid genotypes were found in deer with CWD, unaffected deer were less likely to have the allele QGAS and more likely to have QSAS compared with CWD-affected deer. Late-stage disease (PrPd in brainstem) was noted in deer less than 1 year of age, although no single genotype was associated with this rapid neuroinvasion. Early-stage disease (PrPd distribution limited to the lymphoid system) was observed in deer estimated to be more than 5 years old, suggesting that they were infected as adults or that the incubation time might be extremely long in some individuals. The pseudogene was found in deer of all major PRNP genotypes and was not correlated with CWD status. The large number of susceptible genotypes and the possibility of adult-to-adult transmission suggest that much of the white-tailed deer population may be at risk for disease following exposure to CWD, despite the association of specific genotypes with CWD noted here.