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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2005 Apr;2(1):123-31.

Cytokines and adhesion molecules expression in the brain in human cerebral malaria.

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Department of Pathology, University of Ghana Medical School, Accra, Ghana.


Although the role of systemic proinflammatory cytokines, IL-1beta and TNF-alpha, and their up-regulation of adhesion molecules, ICAM-1, VCAM-1 and E-Selectin, in the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria (CM) is well established, the role of local cytokine release remain unclear. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) was used to compare the expression of ICAM-1, VCAM-1, E-Selectin, IL-1beta, TNF-a and TGF-beta at light microscopic level in cerebral, cerebellar and brainstem postmortem cryostat sections from 10 CM, 5 severe malarial anemia (SMA), 1 purulent bacterial meningitis (PBM), 2 non-central nervous system infections (NCNSI) and 3 non-infections (NI) deaths in Ghanaian children. Fatal malaria and Salmonella sepsis showed significantly higher vascular expression of all 3 adhesion molecules, with highly significant co-localization with sequestration in the malaria cases. However, there was negligible difference between CM and SMA. TGF-beta showed intravascular and perivascular distribution in all cases, but expression was most intense in the PBM case and CM group. TNF-alpha and IL-1beta showed prominent brain parenchymal staining, in addition to intravascular and perivascular staining, in only the PBM case and CM group. The maximal expression of all 6 antigens studied was in the cerebellar sections of the malaria cases. Endothelial activation is a feature of fatal malaria and Salmonella sepsis, with adhesion molecule expression being highly correlated with sequestration. IL-1beta and TNF-alpha are upregulated in only cases with neurodegenerative lesions, whilst TGF-beta is present in all cases. Both cytokines and adhesion molecules were maximally upregulated in the cerebellar sections of the malaria cases.

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