A rat phaeochromocytoma cell line, termed PC12, was used to study scrapie replication. These cells, in response to the addition of nerve growth factor (NGF), exhibit a number of neuronal properties including morphological differentiation, electrophysiological responsiveness, and neurotransmitter synthesis. Cultures were exposed to scrapie brain homogenate (strain 139A), harvested every week for up to 6 weeks, and assayed for scrapie infectivity. Scrapie replication was monitored by injecting scrapie agent-exposed NGF-treated PC12 cells into mice and measuring time intervals from injection to onset of clinical symptoms. Mouse incubation periods vary inversely with the amount of scrapie infectivity present. Cells harvested at 7 and 14 days after exposure to scrapie agent showed a decrease in the level of infectivity followed by an increase at subsequent time points. The increase in scrapie infectivity from early to late time intervals after agent exposure clearly indicated replication . A fusion agent was not necessary to establish infection, and the addition of mouse peritoneal macrophages caused a reduction in the yield of infectivity per culture. Examination of cells by phase-contrast microscopy failed to reveal any cytopathology.


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