Current concepts and controversies in prion immunopathology

Heikenwalder, Mathias ; Prinz, Marco ; Heppner, Frank ; Aguzzi, Adriano

In: Journal of Molecular Neuroscience, 2004, vol. 23, no. 1-2, p. 3-11

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    Scrapie in sheep and new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans are typically initiated by extracerebral exposure to prions. Both exhibit early prion accumulation in sites of the peripheral lymphoreticular system, such as splenic or lymph nodal germinal centers. In germinal centers, follicular dendritic cells (FDCs), whose development and maintenance depend on lymphotoxin and tumor necrosis factor signaling, are believed to be the main cell type for efficient prion replication in the periphery. Here, we discuss the molecular requirements for prion replication competence in stromal and lymphoid compartments of lymphoid organs. In addition, we examine the preconditions of transepithelial passage of prions in the mucosal-associated lymphoid system. Our results suggest that under specific conditions, efficient prion replication in mesenteric and inguinal lymph nodes is possible in the absence of mature FDCs. M cells are a plausible candidate for the mucosal portal of prion infection