Bax is a pro-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family that plays an important role in neuronal apoptosis. However, the results are controversial, especially regarding its function in the apoptosis involved in prion diseases. This work analyzes the gene expression and protein distribution of Bax in the central nervous systems of sheep naturally infected with scrapie. Gene expression profiling, obtained by means of real-time RT-PCR analysis, has shown a significant over-expression of this pro-apoptotic factor in medulla oblongata and diencephalon, whereas its expression was stable in cerebellum and prefrontal cortex. Immunohistochemistry confirmed the expression results and extended the investigation to 13 different regions. A high degree of variability was found in Bax immunoreactivity, mainly in the scrapie group, which also corresponded to the degree of PrPSc deposition. Despite this variability, qualitative differences were found between scrapie and control groups. Intraneuronal reactivity for Bax was mainly observed in the spinal cord, brain stem, hypothalamus, and colicullus of scrapie animals, whereas controls displayed immunoreactivity almost exclusively in the neuropile. Moreover, a significant positive correlation was observed between Bax and prion deposition. Despite Bax over-expression, the activated form of caspase-3 was never observed in neurons showing apoptotic-like morphology. In contrast, activated caspase-3 staining appeared as cytoplasmic granules in apparently healthy neurons. We conclude that apoptosis either occurs in an extremely low number of neurons or neuroprotective mechanisms arrest the mitochondrial pathway after Bax induction.
|Original language||American English|
|Number of pages||10|
|Publication status||Published - 14 Nov 2007|