Prion diseases are presumed to be caused by the accumulation in the brain of a pathological protein called prion protein (PrP) scrapie which results from the transconformation of cellular PrP, a ubiquitous glycoprotein expressed in all mammals. Since all isoforms of PrP are perceived as self by the host immune system, a major problem in designing efficient immunoprophylaxis or immunotherapy is to overcome tolerance. The present study was aimed at investigating whether bone-marrow-derived dendritic cells (DCs) loaded with peptides previously shown to be immunogenic in PrP-deficient mice, can overcome tolerance in PrP-proficient wild-type mice and protect them against scrapie. Results show that, in such mice, peptide-loaded DCs elicit both lymphokine release by T cells and antibody secretion against native cellular PrP. Repeated recalls with peptide-loaded DCs reduces the attack rate of 139A scrapie inoculated intraperitoneally and retards disease duration by 40 days. Most interestingly, survival time in individual mice appears to be correlated with the level of circulating antibody against native cellular PrP.


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