Research Highlights | Published:

Cell biology

How prions kill brain cells

Nature volume 534, page 9 (02 June 2016) | Download Citation

Brain-wasting proteins called prions kill neurons by shortening the dendritic spines that the cells use to transmit signals to each other.

Prions are infectious and cause neurodegenerative diseases such as scrapie in animals and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in humans. To learn how they kill brain cells, David Harris at Boston University in Massachusetts and his co-workers exposed cultured mouse neurons to the prion that causes scrapie in mice. They found that the neurons' dendritic spines retracted within 24 hours, before the cells died. This occurred only in neurons that made the normal, non-infectious form of the prion protein, which suggests that the disease-associated prion might bind to the normal one to trigger dendritic loss.

This method could be used to test potential drugs against prion diseases, the authors say.

About this article

Publication history

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/534009a

Authors

    Comments

    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing