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      Targeting Inflammatory Demyelinating Lesions to Sites of Wallerian Degeneration


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          In Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) infection, an animal model for multiple sclerosis (MS), axonal injury precedes inflammatory demyelinating lesions, and the distribution of axonal damage present during the early phase of infection corresponds to regions where subsequent demyelination occurs during the chronic phase. We hypothesized that axonal damage recruits inflammatory cells to sites of Wallerian degeneration, leading to demyelination. Three weeks after TMEV infection, axonal degeneration was induced in the posterior funiculus of mice by injecting the toxic lectin Ricinus communis agglutinin (RCA) I into the sciatic nerve. Neuropathology was examined 1 week after lectin injection. Control mice, infected with TMEV but receiving no RCA I, had inflammatory demyelinating lesions in the anterior/lateral funiculi. Other control mice that received RCA I alone did not develop inflammatory lesions. In contrast, RCA I injection into TMEV-infected mice induced lesions in the posterior funiculus in addition to the anterior/lateral funiculi. We found no differences in lymphoproliferative responses or antibody titers against TMEV among the groups. This suggests that axonal degeneration contributes to the recruitment of inflammatory cells into the central nervous system by altering the local microenvironment. In this scenario, lesions develop from the axon (inside) to the myelin (outside) (Inside-Out model).

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          Most cited references55

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          Axonal damage in acute multiple sclerosis lesions.

          One of the histological hallmarks of early multiple sclerosis lesions is primary demyelination, with myelin destruction and relative sparing of axons. On the other hand, it is widely accepted that axonal loss occurs in, and is responsible for, the permanent disability characterizing the later chronic progressive stage of the disease. In this study, we have used an antibody against amyloid precursor protein, known to be a sensitive marker of axonal damage in a number of other contexts, in immunocytochemical experiments on paraffin embedded multiple sclerosis lesions of varying ages in order to see at which stage of the disease axonal damage, in addition to demyelination, occurs and may thus contribute to the development of disability in patients. The results show the expression of amyloid precursor protein in damaged axons within acute multiple sclerosis lesions, and in the active borders of less acute lesions. This observation may have implications for the design and timing of therapeutic intervention, one of the most important aims of which must be the reduction of permanent disability.
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            Acute axonal damage in multiple sclerosis is most extensive in early disease stages and decreases over time.

            Multiple sclerosis is characterized morphologically by the key features demyelination, inflammation, gliosis and axonal damage. In recent years, it has become more evident that axonal damage is the major morphological substrate of permanent clinical disability. In our study, we investigated the occurrence of acute axonal damage determined by immunocytochemistry for amyloid precursor protein (APP) which is produced in neurones and accumulates at sites of recent axon transection or damage. The numbers of APP-positive axons in multiple sclerosis lesions were correlated with the disease duration and course. Most APP-positive axons were detected within the first year after disease onset, but acute axonal damage was also detected to a minor degree in lesions of patients with a disease duration of 10 years and more. This effect was not due to the lack of active demyelinating lesions in the chronic disease stage. Late remyelinated lesions (so-called shadow plaques) did not show signs of axon destruction. The number of inflammatory cells showed a decrease over time similar to that of the number of APP-positive axons. There was a significant correlation between the extent of axon damage and the numbers of CD8-positive cytotoxic T cells and macrophages/microglia. Our results indicate that a putative axon-protective treatment should start as early as possible and include strategies preventing T cell/macrophage-mediated axon destruction and leading to remyelination of axons.
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              Acute axonal injury in multiple sclerosis. Correlation with demyelination and inflammation.

              Damage to axons is taken as a key factor of disability in multiple sclerosis, but its pathogenesis is largely unknown. Axonal injury is believed to occur as a consequence of demyelination and was recently shown to be a feature even of the early disease stages. The present study was aimed at characterizing the association of axonal injury and histopathological hallmarks of multiple sclerosis such as demyelination, cellular infiltration and expression of inflammatory mediators. Therefore, axon reduction and signs of acute axonal damage were quantified in early lesion development of chronic multiple sclerosis and correlated with demyelinating activity and inflammation. Patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis revealed the most pronounced axonal injury, whereas primary progressive multiple sclerosis patients surprisingly showed relatively little acute axonal injury. Acute axonal damage, as defined by the accumulation of amyloid precursor protein (APP), was found to occur not only in active demyelinating but also in remyelinating and inactive demyelinated lesions with a large inter-individual variability. Only few remyelinating lesions were adjacent to areas of active demyelination. In this minority of lesions, axonal damage may have originated from the neighbourhood. APP expression in damaged axons correlated with the number of macrophages and CD8-positive T lymphocytes within the lesions, but not with the expression of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) or inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). Axonal injury is therefore, at least in part, independent of demyelinating activity, and its pathogenesis may be different from demyelination. This has major implications for therapeutic strategies, which aim at preventing both demyelination and axonal loss.

                Author and article information

                Am J Pathol
                The American Journal of Pathology
                American Society for Investigative Pathology
                November 2007
                : 171
                : 5
                : 1563-1575
                From the Department of Neurology [* ] and the Program in Human Molecular Biology and Genetics, [] the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah
                Copyright © American Society for Investigative Pathology
                : 23 July 2007
                Regular Articles
                Immunopathology and Infectious Disease



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