Scrapie infection of transgenic mice leads to network and intrinsic dysfunction of cortical and hippocampal neurones.
Jefferys JG., Empson RM., Whittington MA., Prusiner SB.
The human prion encephalopathy Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease often is manifest as rapidly progressing dementia with myoclonus and synchronous, periodic discharges. To investigate the electrophysiology of prion disease we used intra- and extra-cellular recordings from brain slices from Tg(SHaPrP+/+) 81 mice, which express Syrian hamster prion protein and which are susceptible to hamster-passaged scrapie isolates. Forty days after intracerebral inoculation with scrapie isolate Sc237, we recorded prolonged, epileptiform discharges in cortex and hippocampus. Neurological signs were subtle and histopathology was minimal. Central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction progressed; by 57 days the mice were ataxic, had spongiform histopathology and they died in <63 days. During the terminal phase, intrinsic neuronal properties changed dramatically and action potentials broadened from <4 to 20-100 ms in 30% of cortical cells. We conclude that brain dysfunction in experimental scrapie precedes clinical signs and spongiform histopathology, and is preserved in slices maintained in vitro, making it accessible to electrophysiological analysis.