Hippocampal bursts caused by changes in NMDA receptor-dependent excitation in a mouse model of variant CJD.
Ratté S., Prescott SA., Collinge J., Jefferys JG.
Prion diseases are heterogeneous in clinical presentation, suggesting that different prion diseases have distinct pathophysiological changes. To understand the pathophysiology specific to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), in vitro electrophysiological studies were performed in a mouse model in which human-derived vCJD prions were transmitted to transgenic mice expressing human instead of murine prion protein. Paired-pulse stimulation of the Schaffer collaterals evoked hypersynchronous bursting in the hippocampus of vCJD-inoculated mice; comparable bursts were never observed in control or Prnp knockout mice, or in mice inoculated with a strain of prion associated with classical CJD. Furthermore, NMDA receptor-mediated excitation was increased in vCJD-inoculated mice. Using pharmacological experiments and computer simulations, we demonstrate that the increase in NMDA receptor-mediated excitation is necessary and sufficient to explain the distinctive bursting pattern in vCJD. These pathophysiological changes appear to result from a prion strain-specific gain-of-function and may explain some of the distinguishing clinical features of vCJD.