The pattern of scrapie prion protein (PrP(Sc)) accumulation in the brain is different for each prion strain. We tested whether the PrP(Sc) deposition pattern is influenced by the Asn-linked oligosaccharides of PrP(c) in transgenic mice. Deletion of the first oligosaccharide altered PrP(c) trafficking and prevented infection with two prion strains. Deletion of the second did not alter PrP(c) trafficking, permitted infection with one prion strain, and had a profound effect on the PrP(Sc) deposition pattern. Our data raise the possibility that glycosylation can modify the conformation of PrP(c). Glycosylation could affect the affinity of PrP(c) for a particular conformer of PrP(Sc) thereby determining the rate of nascent PrP(Sc) formation and the specific patterns of PrP(Sc) deposition.
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