A major genetic component of BSE susceptibility

Katrin Juling, Hermann Schwarzenbacher, John L. Williams, Ruedi Fries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Background: Coding variants of the prion protein gene (PRNP) have been shown to be major determinants for the susceptibility to transmitted prion diseases in humans, mice and sheep. However, to date, the effects of polymorphisms in the coding and regulatory regions of bovine PRNP on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) susceptibility have been considered marginal or non-existent. Here we analysed two insertion/ deletion (indel) polymorphisms in the regulatory region of bovine PRNP in BSE affected animals and controls of four independent cattle populations from UK and Germany. Results: In the present report, we show that two previously reported 23- and 12-bp insertion/deletion (indel) polymorphisms in the regulatory region of bovine PRNP are strongly associated with BSE incidence in cattle. Genotyping of BSE-affected and control animals of UK Holstein, German Holstein, German Brown and German Fleckvieh breeds revealed a significant overrepresentation of the deletion alleles at both polymorphic sites in diseased animals (P = 2.01 × 10-3 and P = 8.66 × 10-5, respectively). The main effect on susceptibility is associated with the 12-bp indel polymorphism. Compared with non-carriers, heterozygous and homozygous carriers of the 12-bp deletion allele possess relatively higher risks of having BSE, ranging from 1.32 to 4.01 and 1.74 to 3.65 in the different breeds. These values correspond to population attributable risks ranging from 35% to 53%. Conclusion: Our results demonstrate a substantial genetic PRNP associated component for BSE susceptibility in cattle. Although the BSE risk conferred by the deletion allele of the 12-bp indel in the regulatory region of PRNP is substantial, the main risk factor for BSE in cattle is environmental, i.e. exposure to feedstuffs contaminated with the infectious agent.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalBMC Biology
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2006


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