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Developmental Immunology
Volume 9, Issue 4, Pages 245-252

Do Bovine Lymphocytes Express a Peculiar Prion Protein?

Laboratory of Human Histology (Professor Ernst Heinen), Centre de recherche prion, University of Liège, 20, rue de Pitteurs, Liège B-4020, Belgium

Copyright © 2002 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The cellular prion protein (PrPc) is a glycolipid-anchored cell surface protein that usually exhibits three glycosylation states. Its post-translationally modified isoform, PrPsc, is involved in the pathogenesis of various transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). In bovine species, BSE infectivity appears to be restricted to the central nervous system; few or no detectable infectivity is found in lymphoid tissues in contrast to scrapie or variant CJD. Since expression of PrPc is a prerequisite for prion replication, we have investigated PrPc expression by bovine immune cells. Lymphocytes from blood and five different lymph organs were isolated from the same animal to assess intra- and interindividual variability of PrPc expression, considering six individuals. As shown by flow cytometry, this expression is absent or weak on granulocytes but is measurable on monocytes, B and T cells from blood and lymph organs. The activation of the bovine cells produces an upregulation of PrPc. The results of our in vitro study of PrPc biosynthesis are consistent with previous studies in other species. Interestingly, western blotting experiments showed only one form of the protein, the diglycosylated band. We propose that the glycosylation state could explain the lack of infectivity of the bovine immune cells.