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Continuous quinacrine treatment results in the formation of drug-resistant prions

  • Author(s): Ghaemmaghami, S
  • Ahn, M
  • Lessard, P
  • Giles, K
  • Legname, G
  • DeArmond, SJ
  • Prusiner, SB
  • et al.

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Quinacrine is a potent antiprion compound in cell culture models of prion disease but has failed to show efficacy in animal bioassays and human clinical trials. Previous studies demonstrated that quinacrine inefficiently penetrates the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which could contribute to its lack of efficacy in vivo. As quinacrine is known to be a substrate for Pglycoprotein multi-drug resistance (MDR) transporters, we circumvented its poor BBB permeability by utilizing MDR0/0mice that are deficient in mdr1a and mdr1b genes. Mice treated with 40 mg/kg/day of quinacrine accumulated up to 100 mM of quinacrine in their brains without acute toxicity. PrPSc; levels in the brains of prion-inoculated MDR0/0mice diminished upon the initiation of quinacrine treatment. However, this reduction was transient and PrPSc levels recovered despite the continuous administration of quinacrine. Treatment with quinacrine did not prolong the survival times of prion-inoculated, wild-type or MDR0/0mice compared to untreated mice. A similar phenomenon was observed in cultured differentiated prion-infected neuroblastoma cells: PrPSclevels initially decreased after quinacrine treatment then rapidly recovered after 3 d of continuous treatment. Biochemical characterization of PrPScthat persisted in the brains of quinacrine-treated mice had a lower conformational stability and different immunoaffinities compared to that found in the brains of untreated controls. These physical properties were not maintained upon passage in MDR0/0mice. From these data, we propose that quinacrine eliminates a specific subset of PrPScconformers, resulting in the survival of drug-resistant prion conformations. Transient accumulation of this drug-resistant prion population provides a possible explanation for the lack of in vivo efficacy of quinacrine and other antiprion drugs. © 2009 Ghaemmaghami et al.

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