Can plants serve as a vector for prions causing Chronic Wasting Disease?

Rasmussen, J.B., Gilroyed, B.H., Reuter, T.R., Dudas, S., Neumann, N.F., Balachandran, A., Kav, N.N.V., Graham, C., Czub, S., and McAllister, T.A. (2014). "Can plants serve as a vector for prions causing Chronic Wasting Disease?", prion, 7(52), pp. 136-142. doi : 10.4161/pri.27963  Access to full text


Prions, the causative agent of chronic wasting disease (CWD) enter the environment through shedding of bodily fluids and carcass decay, posing a disease risk as a result of their environmental persistence. Plants have the ability to take up large organic particles, including whole proteins, and microbes. This study used wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) to investigate the uptake of infectious CWD prions into roots and their transport into aerial tissues. The roots of intact wheat plants were exposed to infectious prions (PrP{SUP}T{/SUP}{SUP}S{/SUP}{SUP}E{/SUP}) for 24 h in three replicate studies with PrP{SUP}T{/SUP}{SUP}S{/SUP}{SUP}E{/SUP} in protein extracts being detected by western blot, IDEXX and Bio-Rad diagnostic tests. Recombinant prion protein (PrP{SUP}C{/SUP}) bound to roots, but was not detected in the stem or leaves. Protease-digested CWD prions (PrP{SUP}T{/SUP}{SUP}S{/SUP}{SUP}E{/SUP}) in elk brain homogenate interacted with root tissue, but were not detected in the stem. This suggests wheat was unable to transport sufficient PrP{SUP}T{/SUP}{SUP}S{/SUP}{SUP}E{/SUP} from the roots to the stem to be detectable by the methods employed. Undigested PrP{SUP}T{/SUP}{SUP}S{/SUP}{SUP}E{/SUP} did not associate with roots. The present study suggests that if prions are transported from the roots to the stems it is at levels that are below those that are detectable by western blot, IDEXX or Bio-Rad diagnostic kits.

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