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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Idiopathic Brainstem Neuronal Chromatolysis (IBNC): a novel prion protein related disorder of cattle?

Martin Jeffrey1*, Belinda Baquero Perez2, Stuart Martin1, Linda Terry2 and Lorenzo González1

Author affiliations

1 Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA-Lasswade), Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Midlothian EH26 0PZ, UK

2 VLA-Weybridge, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 3NB, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Veterinary Research 2008, 4:38  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-4-38

Published: 30 September 2008

Abstract

Background

The epidemic form of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is generally considered to have been caused by a single prion strain but at least two strain variants of cattle prion disorders have recently been recognized. An additional neurodegenerative condition, idiopathic brainstem neuronal chromatolysis and hippocampal sclerosis (IBNC), a rare neurological disease of adult cattle, was also recognised in a sub-set of cattle submitted under the BSE Orders in which lesions of BSE were absent. Between the years of 1988 and 1991 IBNC occurred in Scotland with an incidence of 7 cases per 100,000 beef suckler cows over the age of 6 years.

Results

When the brains of 15 IBNC cases were each tested by immunohistochemistry, all showed abnormal labelling for prion protein (PrP). Immunohistological labelling for PrP was also present in the retina of a single case available for examination. The pattern of PrP labelling in brain is distinct from that seen in other ruminant prion diseases and is absent from brains with other inflammatory conditions and from normal control brains. Brains of IBNC cattle do not reveal abnormal PrP isoforms when tested by the commercial BioRad or Idexx test kits and do not reveal PrPres when tested by Western blotting using stringent proteinase digestion methods. However, some weakly protease resistant isoforms of PrP may be detected when tissues are examined using mild proteinase digestion techniques.

Conclusion

The study shows that a distinctive neurological disorder of cattle, which has some clinical similarities to BSE, is associated with abnormal PrP labelling in brain but the pathology and biochemistry of IBNC are distinct from BSE. The study is important either because it raises the possibility of a significant increase in the scope of prion disease or because it demonstrates that widespread and consistent PrP alterations may not be confined to prion diseases. Further studies, including transmission experiments, are needed to establish whether IBNC is a condition in which prion protein is abnormally regulated or it is yet a further example of an infectious cattle prion disease.