The discovery of molecular subtypes of the pathological prion protein PrPSc has provided the basis for a novel classification of human transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) and a potentially powerful method for strain typing. However, there is still a significant disparity regarding the understanding and nomenclature of PrPSc types. In. addition, it is still unknown whether a specific PrPSc type is associated with each TSE phenotypic variant. In sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD), five disease phenotypes are known, but only two major types of PrPSc, types 1 and 2, have been consistently reproduced. We further analyzed PrPSc properties in sCJD and variant CJD using a high resolution gel electrophoresis system and varying experimental conditions. We found that pH varies among CJD brain homogenates in standard buffers, thereby influencing the characteristics of protease-treated PrPSc. We also show that PrPSc type 1 and type 2 are heterogeneous species which can be further distinguished into five molecular subtypes that fit the current histopathological classification of sCJD variants. Our results shed light on previous disparities in PrPSc typing, provide a refined classification of human PrPSc types, and support the notion that the pathological TSE phenotype is related to PrPSc structure.
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