Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in THE JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY Vol. 276, No. 21, Issue of May 25, pp. 18229–18234, 2001


Scrapie is a naturally occurring prion (PrP) disease causing a fatal neurodegenerative disorder in sheep and goats. Previous studies suggest that scrapie is transmitted naturally through exposure to the scrapie agent in wasted placentas of infected ewes. This study determined the distribution and biochemical properties of PrP cellular (PrP-C) and the distribution of PrP scrapie (PrP-Sc) in reproductive, placental, and selected fetal tissues and fetal fluids in sheep. Glycosylated, N-terminally truncated, proteinase K-sensitive PrP-C with apparent molecular masses of 23–37 kDa was present in reproductive, placental, and fetal tissues and fetal fluids. PrP-C was low or undetectable in intercotyledonary chorioallantois, amnion, urachus, amniotic fluid, and fetal urine. In pregnant ewes, cotyledonary chorioallantois, allantoic fluid, and caruncular endometrium contained higher levels of PrP-C than did intercaruncular endometrium, myometrium, oviduct, ovary, fetal bladder, or fetal kidney. Caruncular endometrial PrP-C was up-regulated during pregnancy. Despite the wide distribution of PrP-C in reproductive, placental, and selected fetal tissues and fetal fluid, PrP-Sc was detected only in caruncular endometrium and cotyledonary chorioallantois of pregnant scrapie-infected ewes. The embryo/fetus may not be exposed to scrapie in utero because it is separated physically from PrP-positive allantois and chorioallantois by PrP-negative amnion.