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    ABSTRACT: Western blotting has been a key technique for determining the relative expression of proteins within complex biological samples since the first publications in 1979. Recent developments in sensitive fluorescent labels, with truly quantifiable linear ranges and greater limits of detection, have allowed biologists to probe tissue specific pathways and processes with higher resolution than ever before. However, the application of quantitative Western blotting (QWB) to a range of healthy tissues and those from degenerative models has highlighted a problem with significant consequences for quantitative protein analysis: how can researchers conduct comparative expression analyses when many of the commonly used reference proteins (e.g. loading controls) are differentially expressed? Here we demonstrate that common controls, including actin and tubulin, are differentially expressed in tissues from a wide range of animal models of neurodegeneration. We highlight the prevalence of such alterations through examination of published "-omics" data, and demonstrate similar responses in sensitive QWB experiments. For example, QWB analysis of spinal cord from a murine model of Spinal Muscular Atrophy using an Odyssey scanner revealed that beta-actin expression was decreased by 19.3±2% compared to healthy littermate controls. Thus, normalising QWB data to β-actin in these circumstances could result in 'skewing' of all data by ∼20%. We further demonstrate that differential expression of commonly used loading controls was not restricted to the nervous system, but was also detectable across multiple tissues, including bone, fat and internal organs. Moreover, expression of these "control" proteins was not consistent between different portions of the same tissue, highlighting the importance of careful and consistent tissue sampling for QWB experiments. Finally, having illustrated the problem of selecting appropriate single protein loading controls, we demonstrate that normalisation using total protein analysis on samples run in parallel with stains such as Coomassie blue provides a more robust approach.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Central to understanding the nature TSE agents (or prions) is how their genetic information is distinguished from the host. Are TSEs truly infectious diseases with host-independent genomes, or are they aberrations of a host component derived from the host genome? Recent experiments tested whether glycosylation of host PrP affects TSE strain characteristics. Wild-type mice were infected with three TSE strains passaged through transgenic mice with PrP devoid of glycans at one or both N-glycosylation sites. Strain-specific characteristics of one TSE strain changed but did not change for two others. Changes resulted from the selection of mutant TSE strains in a novel replicative environment. In general the properties of established TSEs support the genetic independence of TSE agents from the host, and specifically the primary structure of PrP does not directly encode TSE agent properties. However sporadic TSEs, challenge this independency. The prion hypothesis explains emerging TSEs relatively successfully but poorly accounts for the diversity and mutability of established TSE strains, or how many different infectious conformations are sustained thermodynamically. Research on early changes in RNA expression and events at the ribosome may inform the debate on TSE agent properties and their interaction with host cell machinery.
    Preview · Article · Jun 2013 · Prion
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    ABSTRACT: Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder of cattle, and its transmission to humans through contaminated food is thought to be the cause of the variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). BSE is believed to have spread from the recycling in cattle of ruminant tissue in meat and bone meal (MBM), however during this time sheep and goats were also exposed to BSE-contaminated MBM. Both sheep and goats are experimentally susceptible to BSE, and while there have been no reported natural BSE cases in sheep, two goat BSE field cases have been documented. While cases of BSE are rare in small ruminants, the existence of scrapie in both sheep and goats is well established. In the UK, during 2006-2007, a serious outbreak of clinical scrapie was detected in a large dairy goat herd. Subsequently, 200 goats were selected for post-mortem examinations, one of which showed biochemical and immunohistochemical features of the disease associated prion protein (PrPTSE) which differed from all other infected goats. In the present study we investigated this unusual case by performing bioassays into a panel of mouse lines. Following characterisation, we found that strain properties such as the ability to transmit to different mouse lines, lesion profile pattern, degree of PrP deposition in the brain and biochemical features of this unusual goat case were neither consistent with goat BSE nor with a goat scrapie herdmate control. However our results suggest this unusual case has BSE-like properties and highlights the need for continued surveillance.
    Preview · Article · May 2013 · Journal of General Virology
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