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Inflammation in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis spinal cord and brain is mediated by activated macrophages, mast cells and T cells.

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Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1668, USA.


Recent studies have shown inflammatory markers in affected neural tissues of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients. We examined immunocytochemically spinal cord tissues of six patients with ALS, two with corticospinal tract degeneration secondary to cerebral infarcts and three control subjects without neuropathologic abnormalities. ALS spinal cords had dense macrophage infiltration (one log greater than control spinal cords) involving the white and gray matter, with heaviest infiltration of lateral and ventral columns and, in one patient, prefrontal gyrus and the occipital lobes of the brain. Macrophages in ALS spinal cord showed strong expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) (one log greater than control tissues) and inducible nitric oxide synthase. In the gray matter, macrophages surrounded and appeared to phagocytize neurons (NeuN-positive) that appeared to be dying. Vessels showed damage to the tight junction protein ZO-1 in relation to perivascular CD40 receptor-positive macrophages and CD40 ligand-positive T lymphocytes. ALS spinal cords, but not control cords, were sparsely infiltrated with mast cells. In control cases with corticospinal tract degeneration following hemispheric cerebral infarction, macrophage infiltration of the white matter was COX-2-negative and restricted to lateral and anterior corticospinal tracts. Our data suggest that inflammation in ALS spinal cord and cortex is based on innate immune responses by macrophages and mast cells and adaptive immune responses by T cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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