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Neurochem Res. 1999 Feb;24(2):261-8.

Phagocytosis of myelin in demyelinative disease: a review.

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  • Department of Neurology, VA Medical Center, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA. mesmith@leland.stanford.edu


In the cell-mediated demyelinating diseases such as experimental allergic encephalomyelitis and multiple sclerosis, as well as their peripheral nerve counterparts, the phagocytic cells are the agent of myelin destruction. Both resident microglia and peripheral macrophages invading the nervous system have been shown to phagocytize myelin, although microglia appear to be more active, especially at early stages of disease. Several different receptors on these cells have been implicated as myelin receptors, with the Fc- and complement receptors receiving the most attention. Other receptors, especially the macrophage scavenger receptor with its broad specificity deserves further exploration, especially in view of its affinity for phosphatidylserine, which becomes externalized with membrane disruption. Evidence is shown for cytokine regulation of phagocytic activity in both macrophages and microglia. Further investigation of the pathways of cytokine action on myelin phagocytosis through signal transduction molecules will be important for a further understanding of the events leading to myelin destruction in demyelinating diseases.

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