Prions and platelets: a possible role for cellular prion protein
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Cellular prion protein (PrPc) is a GPI–anchored protein, of unknown function, found in a number of cells throughout the body. It is now widely believed that a mis-folded, protease resistant form of this protein is responsible for a group of fatal neurodegenerative diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE), including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and kuru in humans, scrapie in sheep, chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle. Although the exact function of PrPc is unknown it has been implicated in copper binding, signal transduction and cell adhesion. The pathogenesis of prion diseases is poorly understood, however it is known that PrPc must be present in order for the disease to progress. Platelets have been shown to be the largest reservoir of PrPc in peripheral blood cells and previous studies in animal models have suggested platelets may also be involved in TSE infectivity. In this study, we determine the exact location of PrPc within human platelets, examine the mobilization and release of PrPc from activated platelets on both microvesicles and exosomes and suggest a possible role for platelets in prion infectivity. In addition we examine the role of PrPc within normal platelet functions including aggregation, signal transduction and adhesion.