Prion protein gene (PRNP) sequences suggest differing vulnerability to chronic wasting disease for Florida Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) and Columbian white-tailed deer (O. v. leucurus)

Tolulope I N Perrin-Stowe, Yasuko Ishida, Emily E Terrill, Brian C Hamlin, Linda Penfold, Lara M Cusack, Jan Novakofski, Nohra E Mateus-Pinilla, Alfred L Roca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal, highly transmissible spongiform encephalopathy caused by an infectious prion protein. CWD is spreading across North American cervids. Studies of the prion protein gene (PRNP) in white-tailed deer (WTD; Odocoileus virginianus) have identified non-synonymous substitutions associated with reduced CWD frequency. Because CWD is spreading rapidly geographically, it may impact cervids of conservation concern. Here, we examined the genetic vulnerability to CWD of 2 subspecies of WTD: the endangered Florida Key deer (O. v. clavium) and the threatened Columbian WTD (O. v. leucurus). In Key deer (n = 48), we identified 3 haplotypes formed by 5 polymorphisms, of which 2 were non-synonymous. The polymorphism c.574G>A, unique to Key deer (29 of 96 chromosomes), encodes a non-synonymous substitution from valine to isoleucine at codon 192. In 91 of 96 chromosomes, Key deer carried c.286G>A (G96S), previously associated with substantially reduced susceptibility to CWD. Key deer may be less genetically susceptible to CWD than many mainland WTD populations. In Columbian WTD (n = 13), 2 haplotypes separated by one synonymous substitution (c.438C>T) were identified. All of the Columbian WTD carried alleles that in other mainland populations are associated with relatively high susceptibility to CWD. While larger sampling is needed, future management plans should consider that Columbian WTD are likely to be genetically more vulnerable to CWD than many other WTD populations. Finally, we suggest that genetic vulnerability to CWD be assessed by sequencing PRNP across other endangered cervids, both wild and in captive breeding facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberesaa040
Pages (from-to)564-572
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of heredity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • cervids
  • transmissible spongiform encephalopathy
  • prion
  • endangered species
  • Endangered species
  • Cervids
  • Prion
  • Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biotechnology


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