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J Neuroimmunol. 2008 Jun 15;197(1):70-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2008.03.021. Epub 2008 May 15.

Different content of chitin-like polysaccharides in multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease brains.

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Dipartimento di Neuroscienze e Scienze Materno-Infantili, University of Sassari, Italy.


Chitin is an insoluble N-acetyl-glucosamine polymer coating fungi cell wall and several human parasites. It is hydrolysed by chitotriosidase (Chit); however, as chitin is absent in humans, the significance of human Chit activity is unknown. The level of plasma Chit activity positively correlates with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and multiple sclerosis (MS). A recent study revealed the presence of potentially detrimental chitin-like substances in AD brain by Calcofluor histochemistry, whilst its search in MS brains has never been described to date. Through a comparative immunohistochemical analysis we confirm the presence of abundant chitin-like deposition in AD brains but fail to demonstrate it in MS brains. Interestingly, co-localization of beta-amyloid, Calcofluor and the nuclear marker DAPI was observed. Therefore, Chit production in MS patients is induced by mechanisms other than those operating in AD. Microglia-derived Chit activity in MS may counterbalance the naturally occurring glucosamine aggregation, protecting the brain from the chitin-like substance deposition.

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