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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2005 Feb;64(2):147-55.

The pathology of multiple sclerosis is location-dependent: no significant complement activation is detected in purely cortical lesions.

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Department of Pathology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Complement activation is known to occur in white matter multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions. It is thought to mediate oligodendrocyte/myelin damage and to be a marker of pathologic heterogeneity among individuals. Less is known about complement deposition in the gray matter in MS. The aim of this study was to characterize the presence and distribution of complement activation products in cortical MS lesions. Immunohistochemical staining was performed on cryostat sections from the brains of 22 MS patients and 5 nonneurologic control patients obtained at autopsy. Deposition of the complement activation products C1q, C3d, and C5b-9 (membrane attack complex) was detected on and within macrophages/microglia and astrocytes and in blood vessel walls in white matter MS lesions. C3d and C4d were detected along myelin sheaths at the edge of the lesions. In the gray matter part of combined gray matter/white matter lesions complement activation was less frequent, but increased immunopositivity was detected for C3d on blood vessels, and for C3d and C4d on myelin at the border of lesions, when compared with control areas. In contrast, in the purely cortical lesions, the extent of complement deposition in general was low. In conclusion, the role of complement in MS pathogenesis seems lesion location-dependent.

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