Scrapie strain replication in the nerve growth factor-induced, differentiated PC12 cell culture system was examined. Differences in replication between mouse-derived agents were demonstrated, with the 139A scrapie strain yielding 100- to 1000-fold higher levels of infectivity than the ME7 scrapie strain. Replication was not detected in PC12 cells infected with either the hamster-derived 263K or rat-derived 139R scrapie strains. Studies on the neurotransmitters in infected PC12 cells demonstrated that the adrenergic pathway was unchanged but the cholinergic pathway was altered. Furthermore, the degree of alteration correlated with the level of scrapie strain replication. Comparison of infectivity titres and enzymatic changes in ME7-infected PC12 cells with those in Chandler agent-infected mouse neuroblastoma cells suggests that the significant changes in neurotransmitter levels in cultures exhibiting low titres of infectivity involve factors in addition to strain replication. The variation in the range of scrapie strain replication in PC12 cells is discussed in relationship to species barrier, cell targeting, genetic susceptibility and species strain specificity. These studies further emphasize the value of the PC12 cell model system in examining the scrapie strain-host cell interaction and in addition support the concept of variation among scrapie strains.


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