The development of diagnostic tools for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) would greatly assist their study and may provide assistance in controlling the disease. The detection of an abnormal form of the host protein PrP in noncentral nervous system tissues may form the basis for diagnosis of TSEs. Using a new antibody reagent to PrP produced in chickens, PrP can be readily detected in crude tissue extracts. PrP from uninfected spleen had a lower molecular mass range than PrP from brain, suggesting a lower degree of glycosylation. A simple method for detecting the abnormal form of the protein, PrPSc, in ruminant brain and spleen has been developed. PrPSc was detected in sheep spleen extracts from a flock affected by natural scrapie and was also found in spleens from some, but not all, experimental TSE cases. In spleens from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) no PrPSc was detected. It is therefore suggested that there is differential targeting of PrPSc deposition between organs in these different types of TSE infection which, with other factors, depends on strain of infecting agent.


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