Molecular evolution of the sheep prion protein gene.
ABSTRACT Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are infectious, fatal neurodegenerative diseases characterized by aggregates of modified forms of the prion protein (PrP) in the central nervous system. Well known examples include variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) in humans, BSE in cattle, chronic wasting disease in deer and scrapie in sheep and goats. In humans, sheep and deer, disease susceptibility is determined by host genotype at the prion protein gene (PRNP). Here I examine the molecular evolution of PRNP in ruminants and show that variation in sheep appears to have been maintained by balancing selection, a profoundly different process from that seen in other ruminants. Scrapie eradication programs such as those recently implemented in the UK, USA and elsewhere are based on the assumption that PRNP is under positive selection in response to scrapie. If, as these data suggest, that assumption is wrong, eradication programs will disrupt this balancing selection, and may have a negative impact on the fitness or scrapie resistance of national flocks.
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ABSTRACT: Prions are proteins that play a central role in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in a variety of mammals. Among the most notable prion disorders in ungulates are scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, and chronic wasting disease in deer. Single nucleotide polymorphisms in the sheep prion gene ( PRNP) have been correlated with susceptibility to natural scrapie in some populations. Similar correlations have not been reported in cattle or deer; however, characterization of PRNP nucleotide diversity in those species is incomplete. This report describes nucleotide sequence variation and frequency estimates for the PRNP locus within diverse groups of U.S. sheep, U.S. beef cattle, and free-ranging deer ( Odocoileus virginianus and O. hemionus from Wyoming). DNA segments corresponding to the complete prion coding sequence and a 596-bp portion of the PRNP promoter region were amplified and sequenced from DNA panels with 90 sheep, 96 cattle, and 94 deer. Each panel was designed to contain the most diverse germplasm available from their respective populations to facilitate polymorphism detection. Sequence comparisons identified a total of 86 polymorphisms. Previously unreported polymorphisms were identified in sheep (9), cattle (13), and deer (32). The number of individuals sampled within each population was sufficient to detect more than 95% of all alleles present at a frequency greater than 0.02. The estimation of PRNP allele and genotype frequencies within these diverse groups of sheep, cattle, and deer provides a framework for designing accurate genotype assays for use in genetic epidemiology, allele management, and disease control.Mammalian Genome 12/2003; 14(11):765-77. · 2.89 Impact Factor
Article: Balancing selection at the prion protein gene consistent with prehistoric kurulike epidemics.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Kuru is an acquired prion disease largely restricted to the Fore linguistic group of the Papua New Guinea Highlands, which was transmitted during endocannibalistic feasts. Heterozygosity for a common polymorphism in the human prion protein gene (PRNP) confers relative resistance to prion diseases. Elderly survivors of the kuru epidemic, who had multiple exposures at mortuary feasts, are, in marked contrast to younger unexposed Fore, predominantly PRNP 129 heterozygotes. Kuru imposed strong balancing selection on the Fore, essentially eliminating PRNP 129 homozygotes. Worldwide PRNP haplotype diversity and coding allele frequencies suggest that strong balancing selection at this locus occurred during the evolution of modern humans.Science 05/2003; 300(5619):640-3. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Natural selection is expected to leave distinctive signatures on patterns of neutral variation that are tightly linked to a site carrying an advantageous mutation. This notion is the basis for molecular population genetics approaches to the analysis of adaptations in the human genome. In principle, this is an attractive prospect; in practice, several complications and challenges make it difficult to draw unambiguous conclusions about natural selection. In this article, we discuss some general issues on the studies detecting the signature of natural selection in light of a recent paper on the prion protein gene (PRNP). This study hypothesized that PRNP evolved under balancing selection as a result of widespread cannibalistic practices.Trends in Genetics 08/2004; 20(7):300-4. · 10.06 Impact Factor