Presentation Abstract

Title: Uptake of Prions into Plants
Session Title: Current Science of Chronic Wasting Disease: What Have We Learned in the Last 5 Years?
Session Number: 27
Session Time: Monday, Oct 07, 2013, 8:30 AM -12:20 PM
Presentation Time: Monday, Oct 07, 2013, 11:00 AM -11:20 AM
Presentation Number: 8
Author(s): Christopher Johnson, U.S. Geological Survey, Madison, WI, Contact:
Abstract Body: Chronic wasting disease (CWD) and scrapie-infected animals shed infectious prions during both the preclinical and clinical phases of disease. Contamination of environments with prions released from animals or from infected carcasses appears to contribute to the transmission of these diseases. Previous work has suggested that soil may serve as an environmental disease reservoir. Vegetation is ubiquitous in CWD-contaminated environments and plants are known to absorb a variety of substances from soil, ranging from nutrients to contaminants. The uptake of proteins from soil into plants has been documented for many years and we have been investigating the uptake of prions into plants in vitro. Using laser scanning confocal microscopy, we observed root uptake of fluorescently-tagged, abnormal prion protein in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, as well as the crop plants alfalfa (Medicago sativa), barley (Hordeum vulgare) and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Using serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification, a sensitive biochemical prion detection method, we have found evidence of prions in aerial tissues from these species, as well as maize (Zea mays). Both stems and leaves of A. thaliana grown in culture media containing prions are infectious when injected into mice and oral bioassays are underway for A. thaliana and other plants. Our results suggest that prions are taken up by plants and that contaminated plants may represent a previously unrecognized risk of human, domestic species and wildlife exposure to CWD and scrapie agents.

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