Familial prion diseases are caused by mutations in the gene encoding the prion protein (PrP). We have produced transgenic mice that express the mouse homolog of a mutant human PrP containing a nine octapeptide insertion associated with prion dementia. These mice exhibit a slowly progressive neurological disorder characterized clinically by ataxia and neuropathologically by cerebellar atrophy and granule cell loss, gliosis, and PrP deposition that is most prominent in the cerebellum and hippocampus. Mutant PrP molecules expressed in the brains of these mice are resistant to digestion by low concentrations of proteinase K and display several other biochemical properties reminiscent of PrP(Sc,) the pathogenic isoform of PrP. These results establish a new transgenic animal model of an inherited human prion disorder.
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