Transcriptional profiling of prion infection

Authors: Garrett Sorensen, Sarah Medina, Debra Parchaliuk, Clark Phillipson, Catherine Robertson and Stephanie A Booth

Citation: BMC Genomics 2008, 9:114doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-114

Authors: 3 March 2008

Abstract (provisional)

To read the complete article, click here. Originally published in BioMed Central. Open Access.


Prion infection results in progressive neurodegeneration of the central nervous system invariably resulting in death. The pathological effects of prion diseases in the brain are morphologically well defined, such as gliosis, vacuolation, and the accumulation of disease-specific protease-resistant prion protein (PrPSc). However, the underlying molecular events that lead to the death of neurons are poorly characterised.


In this study cDNA microarrays were used to profile gene expression changes in the brains of two different strains of mice infected with three strains of mouse-adapted scrapie. Extensive data was collected and analyzed, from which we identified a core group of 349 prion-related genes (PRGs) that consistently showed altered expression in mouse models. Gene ontology analysis assigned many of the up-regulated genes to functional groups associated with one of the primary neuropathological features of prion diseases, astrocytosis and gliosis; protein synthesis, inflammation, cell proliferation and lipid metabolism. Using a computational tool, Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA), we were able to build networks of interacting genes from the PRG list. The regulatory cytokine TGFB1, involved in modulating the inflammatory response, was identified as the outstanding interaction partner for many of the PRGs. The majority of genes expressed in neurons were down-regulated; a number of these were involved in regulatory pathways including synapse function, calcium signalling, long-term potentiation and ERK/MAPK signalling. Two down-regulated genes coding for the transcription regulators, EGR1 and CREB1, were also identified as central to interacting networks of genes; these factors are often used as markers of neuronal activity and their deregulation could be key to loss of neuronal function.


These data provide a comprehensive list of genes that are consistently differentially expressed in multiple scrapie infected mouse models. Building networks of interactions between these genes provides a means to understand the complex interplay in the brain during neurodegeneration. Resolving the key regulatory and signaling events that underlie prion pathogenesis will provide targets for the design of novel therapies and the identification of biomarkers.


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