• cellular prion protein;
  • crinophagy;
  • intermediate pituitary melanotrope cell;
  • proopiomelanocortin;
  • Xenopus laevis transgenesis


The cellular form of the prion protein (PrPC) is a plasma membrane-anchored glycoprotein whose physiological function is poorly understood. Here we report the effect of transgene expression of Xenopus PrPC fused to the C-terminus of the green fluorescent protein (GFP-PrPC) specifically in the neuroendocrine intermediate pituitary melanotrope cells of Xenopus laevis. In the transgenic melanotrope cells, the level of the prohormone proopiomelanocortin (POMC) in the secretory pathway was reduced when the cells were (i) exposed for a relatively long time to the transgene product (by physiologically inducing transgene expression), (ii) metabolically stressed, or (iii) forced to produce unfolded POMC. Intriguingly, although the overall ultrastructure was normal, electron microscopy revealed the induction of lysosomes taking up POMC secretory granules (crinophagy) in the transgenic melanotrope cells, likely causing the reduced POMC levels. Together, our results indicate that in neuroendocrine cells transgene expression of PrPC affects the functioning of the secretory pathway and induces crinophagy. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 67: 81–96, 2007