The rat pheochromocytoma cell line, PC12, undergoes neuron-like morphological, biochemical and electrophysiological differentiation, in the presence of low concentrations of nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF-treated PC12 cells have been shown previously to support 139A scrapie agent replication. In the present report we extended these findings and analysed the cellular conditions necessary for agent replication. Following the infection of differentiated PC12 cells, scrapie replicated to relatively high titres as determined by an incubation period assay. The removal of NGF, which causes the gradual dedifferentiation of PC12 cells, resulted in the inability of scrapie to replicate. The scrapie infectivity detected in PC12 cultures is cell-associated and not released into the medium. Cells in infected cultures did not show any change in morphology when compared to cells in mock-infected cultures. Titration studies of scrapie infectivity in PC12 cells have indicated that up to 4 LD units per cell can be obtained although a yield of 1 LD per cell was more common. Using an approximate m.o.i. of 1, only differentiated PC12 cells supported 139A scrapie agent replication when compared to two other differentiated, neuronal cell types, indicating that PC12 cells are more susceptible to agent replication. These studies support further the suitability of using differentiated PC12 cells as an model to study scrapie agent replication.


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