You may find answers to your questions if you read up on Stanley
Prusiner's (UC-Berkeley) work over the past 30 years or so on prions. He
answered many of these question through work on the sheep variety of
prion that has been around for a long time. Many people still cling to
the unproven idea that a nucleic acid is somehow involved in the
stability of the apparent protein.
University of California
On 28 Mar 1996, Nicholas Landau wrote:
>> I am a microbial ecologist, but this BES/CJS connection has caught
> my attention, just like everybody else.
>> I have noticed postings from UK microbiologists attesting to the
> great heat resistance of the BSE infective agent. I have two
> questions about this.
>> 1) Is there any hyposthesis as to how a protein, such as the BSE
> prion, could retain its secondary and tertiary structure? Secondary
> structure is generally determined by hydrogen bonds, which are broken
> at around 100 C in most substances. How is it that BSE can retain its
> functionality after exposure to normally denaturing temperatures?
> Does it have a high cystein content?
>> 2) Given that the symptoms of BSE take many years after infection
> to manifest themselves, how is the virulence of the infective agent
> determined after such treatment? Have the experiments been going on
> for years and decades, or is some criterion other than the causation
> of symptoms in test subjects used to determine virulence?
>> Oh, yeah: one more question not involving thermostability....
>> 3) From the postings I have seen, it looks as if the infective
> agent has not been isolated and identified (some people say it is
> a virus, others a prion.) This being the case, how is it that
> the British government can conclude that CJS is being caused by
> the same infectious agent as BSE?
>> Thank you for responding.
>> Nick Landau
> Dept. Biochemistry and Microbiology
> Rutgers University
>nlandau at eden.rutgers.edu>>