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Review article: Biomedical intelligence

Vol. 150 No. 1718 (2020)

The cellular prion protein beyond prion diseases

  • Giorgia Manni
  • Victoria Lewis
  • Matteo Senesi
  • Giovanni Spagnolli
  • Francesca Fallarino
  • Steven J. Collins
  • Sophie Mouillet-Richard
  • Emiliano Biasini
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2020;150:w20222


The cellular prion protein (PrPC), a cell surface glycoprotein originally identified for its central role in prion diseases (also called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies), has recently been implicated in the pathogenesis of other neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, by acting as a toxicity-transducing receptor for different misfolded protein isoforms, or in some case by exerting neuroprotective effects. Interestingly, PrPC has also been reported to play unexpected functions outside the nervous system, for example by contributing to myelin homeostasis, regulating specific processes of the immune system and participating in various aspects of cancer progression. Collectively, these observations point to a much broader role for PrPC in physiological and disease processes than originally assumed. In this manuscript, we provide an overview of what is known about the role of PrPC beyond prion disorders and discuss the potential implications of targeting this protein in different diseases.


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