Transport of prion protein across the blood-brain barrier

Publication Date



Experimental Neurology


The cellular form of the prion protein (PrP(c)) is necessary for the development of prion diseases and is a highly conserved protein that may play a role in neuroprotection. PrP(c) is found in both blood and cerebrospinal fluid and is likely produced by both peripheral tissues and the central nervous system (CNS). Exchange of PrP(c) between the brain and peripheral tissues could have important pathophysiologic and therapeutic implications, but it is unknown whether PrP(c) can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Here, we found that radioactively labeled PrP(c) crossed the BBB in both the brain-to-blood and blood-to-brain directions. PrP(c) was enzymatically stable in blood and in brain, was cleared by liver and kidney, and was sequestered by spleen and the cervical lymph nodes. Circulating PrP(c) entered all regions of the CNS, but uptake by the lumbar and cervical spinal cord, hypothalamus, thalamus, and striatum was particularly high. These results show that PrP(c) has bidirectional, saturable transport across the BBB and selectively targets some CNS regions. Such transport may play a role in PrP(c) function and prion replication.


Animals, Blood-Brain Barrier, Capillary Permeability, Iodine Isotopes, Male, Mice, Prions, Protein Transport, Time Factors, Tissue Distribution