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Abstract zur Publikation: Early spread of scrapie from the gastrointestinal tract to the central nervous system involves autonomic fibers of the splanchnic and vagus nerves

McBride PA, Schulz-Schäffer WJ, Donaldson M, Bruce M, Diringer H, Kretzschmar HA, Beekes M (2001): Early spread of scrapie from the gastrointestinal tract to the central nervous system involves autonomic fibers of the splanchnic and vagus nerves.
J. Virol. 75: 9320-9327.

Although the ultimate target of infection is the central nervous system (CNS), there is evidence that the enteric nervous system (ENS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) are involved in the pathogenesis of orally communicated transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. In several peripherally challenged rodent models of scrapie, spread of infectious agent to the brain and spinal cord shows a pattern consistent with propagation along nerves supplying the viscera. We used immunocytochemistry (ICC) and paraffin-embedded tissue (PET) blotting to identify the location and temporal sequence of pathological accumulation of a host protein, PrP, in the CNS, PNS, and ENS of hamsters orally infected with the 263K scrapie strain. Enteric ganglia and components of splanchnic and vagus nerve circuitry were examined along with the brain and spinal cord. Bioassays were carried out with selected PNS constituents. Deposition of pathological PrP detected by ICC was consistent with immunostaining of a partially protease-resistant form of PrP (PrPSc) in PET blots. PrPSc could be observed from approximately one-third of the way through the incubation period in enteric ganglia and autonomic ganglia of splanchnic or vagus circuitry prior to sensory ganglia. PrPSc accumulated, in a defined temporal sequence, in sites that accurately reflected known autonomic and sensory relays. Scrapie agent infectivity was present in the PNS at low or moderate levels. The data suggest that, in this scrapie model, the infectious agent primarily uses synaptically linked autonomic ganglia and efferent fibers of the vagus and splanchnic nerves to invade initial target sites in the brain and spinal cord.

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