Protease-resistant human prion protein and ferritin are cotransported across Caco-2 epithelial cells: Implications for species barrier in prion uptake from the intestine

Academic Article


  • Foodborne transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to humans as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) has affected over 100 individuals, and probably millions of others have been exposed to BSE-contaminated food substances. Despite these obvious public health concerns, surprisingly little is known about the mechanism by which PrP-scrapie (PrPSc), the most reliable surrogate marker of infection in BSE-contaminated food, crosses the human intestinal epithelial cell barrier. Here we show that digestive enzyme (DE) treatment of sporadic CJD brain homogenate generates a C-terminal fragment similar to the proteinase K-resistant PrPSc core of 27-30 kDa implicated in prion disease transmission and pathogenesis. Notably, DE treatment results in a PrPSc-protein complex that is avidly transcytosed in vesicular structures across an in vitro model of the human intestinal epithelial cell barrier, regardless of the amount of endogenous PrPC expression. Unexpectedly, PrPSc is cotransported with ferritin, a prominent component of the DE-treated PrPSc-protein complex. The transport of PrPSc-ferritin is sensitive to low temperature, brefeldin-A, and nocodazole treatment and is inhibited by excess free ferritin, implicating a receptor- or transporter-mediated pathway. Because ferritin shares considerable homology across species, these data suggest that PrP Sc-associated proteins, in particular ferritin, may facilitate PrPSc uptake in the intestine from distant species, leading to a carrier state in humans.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Mishra RS; Basu S; Gu Y; Luo X; Zou WQ; Mishra R; Li R; Chen SG; Gambetti P; Fujioka H
  • Start Page

  • 11280
  • End Page

  • 11290
  • Volume

  • 24
  • Issue

  • 50