Richard Bessen, Associate Professor
Immunology & Infectious Diseases
My laboratory is investigating agent-host interactions in prion diseases, which are fatal neurodegenerative diseases. These are important diseases of humans (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), livestock (e.g., scrapie in sheep and bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle) and cervids (chronic wasting disease) that have zoonotic potential. Although the majority of prion diseases are due to infection with the prion agent, they can also occur sporadically or as a result of an autosomal dominant mutation in the prion protein gene. The prion agent appears to be devoid of a nucleic acid genome and consists of a misfolded host protein, called PrP-res, that can further induce its own formation from the normal host prion protein. The multiple etiologies of prion diseases and the unusual nature of the infectious agent is novel in microbiology.
Research projects in the Bessen lab include investigations of (1) the routes of prion neuroinvasion following oral exposure; (2) the mechanism of prion agent entry and spread in nerve cells and skeletal muscle; (3) the host physiological responses during chronic wasting disease infection; and (4) transgenic models of CWD pathogenesis. Currently, there are postdoctoral and technical positions as well as graduate student openings available in the laboratory to pursue these studies.
B.A. Biology, 1984, Washington University, St. Louis, MO.
Ph.D. Veterinary Science, 1991, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.
2005-present Affliate Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, University of Washington
2003-present Associate Professor, Immunology & Infectious Diseases, Montana State University
2003 Associate Professor, Medical Microbiology & Immunology, Creighton University School of Medicine
2000-present Faculty, Nebraska Center for Virology
1997-2003 Assistant Professor, Medical Microbiology & Immunology, Creighton University School of Medicine
1996- 1997 European Molecular Biology Organization Postdoctoral fellow, Institute for Animal Health, Scotland
1992- 1996 Postdoctoral fellow, Laboratory of Persistent Viral Diseases, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Extramural Grant Activity
- Oral prion neuroinvasion via cranial nerves, United States Department of Agriculture, 9/15/02 to 11/30/09.
- Mechanisms of Prion Transport, National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, 6/1/03 to 12/15/13.
- Role of Viral Infection in Prion Shedding, National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, 6/15/09 to 6/14/11.
- Bessen, R.A. & Marsh R.F. 1994. Distinct PrP properties suggest the molecular basis for strain variation in transmissible mink encephalopathy. Journal of Virology 68:7859-7868. [abstract]
- Bessen, R.A., Lynch, W.P. & Portis, J.L. 1995. Inhibition of murine retrovirus-induced neurodegeneration in spinal cord by explant. Journal of Virology 69:7300-03. [abstract]
- Race, R.E., Priola, S.A., Bessen, R.A., Ernst, D., Dockter, J., Rall, G.F., Mucke, L., Chesebro, B. & Oldstone, M.B.A. 1995. Neuron specific expression of a hamster prion protein minigene in transgenic mice induces susceptibility to hamster scrapie agent. Neuron 15:1183-1191. [abstract]
- Bessen, R.A., Kocisko, D.A., Raymond, G.J. Nandan, S., Lansbury, P.T. & Caughey, B. 1995. Nongenetic propagation of strain specific properties of the scrapie prion protein. Nature 375:698-700. [abstract]
- Bessen, R.A., Raymond, G.J. & Caughey, B. 1997. In situ formation of the scrapie prion protein in transmissible spongiform encephalopathy infected brain slices. Journal of Biological Chemistry 272:15227-31. [abstract]
- Raeber A.J., Race R.E., Brandner S., Priola S.A., Sailer A., Bessen R.A., Mucke L., Manson J., Aguzzi A., Oldstone M.B.A., Weissmann C., & Chesebro B. 1997. Astrocyte-specific expression of hamster prion protein (PrP) renders PrP knockout mice susceptible to hamster scrapie. EMBO J. 16:6057-65. [abstract]
- Caughey B., Raymond G.R. & Bessen R.A. 1998. Strain-dependent differences in beta-sheet conformations of abnormal prion protein. Journal of Biological Chemistry 273:32230-35. [abstract]
- Bartz, J.C., Bessen, R.A., McKenzie, D., Marsh, R.F. & Aiken, J.M. 2000. Adaptation and selection of prion protein strain conformations following interspecies transmission of transmissible mink encephalopathy. Journal of Virology 74:5542-47. [abstract]
J.C., Kincaid, A.E. & Bessen, R.A. 2002. Retrograde
transport of transmissible mink encephalopathy within
descending motor tracts. Journal of Virology 76:5759-5768.
- Bartz, J.C., Kincaid, A.E. & Bessen, R.A. 2003. Rapid prion neuroinvasion following tongue infection, Journal of Virology 77:583-591. [abstract]
- Bartz, J.C., Aiken, J.M. & Bessen, R.A. 2004 Delay in onset of prion disease for the HY Strain of transmissible mink encephalopathy as a result of prior peripheral inoculation with the replication-deficient DY strain. Journal of General Virology 85:265-273. [abstract]
- Mulcahy, E.R. & Bessen, R.A. 2004. Strain-specific kinetics of prion protein formation in vitro and in vivo. Journal of Biological Chemistry 279:1643-1649. [abstract]
- Mulcahy, E.R, Bartz, J.C., Kincaid, A.E. & Bessen, R.A. 2005. Prion infection of skeletal muscle cells and papillae in the tongue. Journal of Virology 77:583-591. [abstract]
- Bartz, J.C., DeJoia, C., Tucker, T., Kincaid, A.E., & Bessen, R.A. 2005. Extraneural prion neuroinvasion without lymphoreticular system infection. Journal of Virology 79:11858-11863. [abstract]
- Marsh, R.F., Kincaid, A.E., Bessen, R.A., & Bartz, J.C. 2005. Interspecies transmission of chronic wasting disease prions to squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus). Journal of Virology 79:13794-13796. [abstract]
- DeJoia, C., Moreaux, B., O'Connell, K., & Bessen, R.A. 2006. Prion infection of oral and nasal mucosa. Journal of Virology 80:4546-4556. [abstract]
- Bartz, J.C., Kramer, M.L., Sheehan, M.H., Hutter, J.A., Ayers, J.I., Bessen, R.A. & Kincaid, A.E. 2007. Prion Interference is due to a reduction in strain-specific PrP(Sc) levels. Journal of Virology 81:689-697. [abstract]
- Dlakic, W.M., Grigg, E. & Bessen, R.A. 2007. Prion infection of muscle cells in vitro. Journal of Virology 81:4615-4624. [abstract]
- Baron, T., Bencsik, A, Biacabe, A.-E., Morignat, E. & Bessen, R.A. 2007. Phenotypic similarity of transmissible mink encephalopathy in cattle and L-type bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a mouse model. Emerging Infectious Diseases 13:1887-1894. [abstract]
- Yuan J, Dong Z, Guo JP, McGeehan J, Xiao X, Wang J, Cali I, McGeer PL, Cashman NR, Bessen RA, Surewicz WK, Kneale G, Petersen RB, Gambetti P, Zou WQ. 2008. Accessibility of a critical prion protein region involved in strain recognition and its implications for the early detection of prions. Cell Mol Life Sci. 65:631-43. [abstract]
- Bailey, JD, Berardinelli, JG, Rocke, TE & Bessen, RA. 2008. Prominent pancreatic endocrinopathy and altered control of food intake disrupt energy homeostasis in prion diseases. Journal of Endocrinology 190:251-263. [abstract]
- Bessen, R.A., Martinka, S., Kelly, J., & Gonzalez, D. 2009. The role of the lymphoreticular system in prion neuroinvasion from the oral and nasal mucosa. Journal of Virology 83:6435-6445. [abstract]
- Bessen, R.A., Shearin, H., Martinka, S., Boharski, R., Lowe, D., Wilham, J., Caughey, & Wiley, J. 2010. Prion Shedding from Olfactory Neurons into Nasal Secretions. PLoS Pathogens 6:e1000837. [abstract]
Wilham, J.M., Orrú, C.D., Bessen, R.A., Atarashi, R., Sano, K., Race, B., Meade-White, D., Taubner, L.M., Timmes, A., & Caughey. B. 2010. Rapid end-point quantitation of prion seeding acitvity with sensitivity comparable to bioassays. PLoS Pathogens 6:e1001217. [abstract]
Johnson, C.J., Bennett, J.P., Biro, S.M., Duque-Velasquez, C., Bessen, R.A. & Rocke, T.E. Degradation of the pathogenic prion protein by a serine protease from lichens. 2011. PLoS One 6:e19836. [abstract]