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The cellular prion protein, designated PrPC, is a membrane glycoprotein expressed abundantly in brains and to a lesser extent in other tissues. Conformational conversion of PrPC into the amyloidogenic isoform is a key pathogenic event in prion diseases. However, the physiological functions of PrPC remain largely unknown, particularly in non-neuronal tissues. Here, we show that PrPC is expressed in lung epithelial cells, including alveolar type 1 and 2 cells and bronchiolar Clara cells. Compared with wild-type (WT) mice, PrPC-null mice (Prnp0/0) were highly susceptible to influenza A viruses (IAVs), with higher mortality. Infected Prnp0/0 lungs were severely injured, with higher inflammation and higher apoptosis of epithelial cells, and contained higher reactive oxygen species (ROS) than control WT lungs. Treatment with a ROS scavenger or an inhibitor of xanthine oxidase (XO), a major ROS-generating enzyme in IAV-infected lungs, rescued Prnp0/0 mice from the lethal infection with IAV. Moreover, Prnp0/0 mice transgenic for PrP with a deletion of the Cu-binding octapeptide repeat (OR) region, Tg(PrPΔOR)/Prnp0/0 mice, were also highly susceptible to IAV infection. These results indicate that PrPC has a protective role against lethal infection with IAVs through the Cu-binding OR region by reducing ROS in infected lungs. Cu content and the activity of anti-oxidant enzyme Cu/Zn-dependent superoxide dismutase, SOD1, were lower in Prnp0/0 and Tg (PrPΔOR)/Prnp0/0 lungs than in WT lungs. It is thus conceivable that PrPC functions to maintain Cu content and regulate SOD1 through the OR region in lungs, thereby reducing ROS in IAV-infected lungs and eventually protecting them from lethal infection with IAVs. Our current results highlight the role of PrPC in protection against IAV infection, and suggest that PrPC might be a novel target molecule for anti-influenza therapeutics.
Copyright: © 2018 Chida et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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plospathog_14_5_e1007049.pdf 11.7 MB
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