Prions are the infectious agents in the class of fatal neurodegenerative diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, which affect humans, deer, sheep, and cattle. Prion diseases of deer and sheep can be transmitted via environmental routes, and soil is has been implicated in the transmission of these diseases. Interaction with soil particles is expected to govern the transport, bioavailability and persistence of prions in soil environments. A mechanistic understanding of prion interaction with soil components is critical for understanding the behavior of these proteins in the environment. Here, we report results of a study to investigate the interactions of prions with model oxide surfaces (Al2O3, SiO2) using quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring and optical waveguide light mode spectroscopy. The efficiency of prion attachment to Al2O3 and SiO2 depended strongly on pH and ionic strength in a manner consistent with electrostatic forces dominating interaction with these oxides. The presence of the N-terminal portion of the protein appeared to promote attachment to Al2O3 under globally electrostatically repulsive conditions. We evaluated the utility of recombinant prion protein as a surrogate for prions in attachment experiments and found that its behavior differed markedly from that of the infectious agent. Our findings suggest that prions would tend to associate with positively charged mineral surfaces in soils (e.g., iron and aluminum oxides).
Authors: Kurt H. Jacobson†, Thomas R. Kuech‡, and Joel A. Pedersen†‡§*
†Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, ‡Environmental Chemistry and Technology Program, and §Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, United States
Source: American Chemical Society