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Brain. 2012 Jan;135(Pt 1):88-104. doi: 10.1093/brain/awr283. Epub 2011 Nov 16.

Colony-stimulating factor-1 mediates macrophage-related neural damage in a model for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 1X.

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Department of Neurology, Section of Developmental Neurobiology, University of Würzburg, Josef-Schneiderstr. 11, 97080 Würzburg, Germany.


Previous studies in our laboratory have shown that in models for three distinct forms of the inherited and incurable nerve disorder, Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy, low-grade inflammation implicating phagocytosing macrophages mediates demyelination and perturbation of axons. In the present study, we focus on colony-stimulating factor-1, a cytokine implicated in macrophage differentiation, activation and proliferation and fostering neural damage in a model for Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy 1B. By crossbreeding a model for the X-linked form of Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy with osteopetrotic mice, a spontaneous null mutant for colony-stimulating factor-1, we demonstrate a robust and persistent amelioration of demyelination and axon perturbation. Furthermore, functionally important domains of the peripheral nervous system, such as juxtaparanodes and presynaptic terminals, were preserved in the absence of colony-stimulating factor-1-dependent macrophage activation. As opposed to other Schwann cell-derived cytokines, colony-stimulating factor-1 is expressed by endoneurial fibroblasts, as revealed by in situ hybridization, immunocytochemistry and detection of β-galactosidase expression driven by the colony-stimulating factor-1 promoter. By both light and electron microscopic studies, we detected extended cell-cell contacts between the colony-stimulating factor-1-expressing fibroblasts and endoneurial macrophages as a putative prerequisite for the effective and constant activation of macrophages by fibroblasts in the chronically diseased nerve. Interestingly, in human biopsies from patients with Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 1, we also found frequent cell-cell contacts between macrophages and endoneurial fibroblasts and identified the latter as main source for colony-stimulating factor-1. Therefore, our study provides strong evidence for a similarly pathogenic role of colony-stimulating factor-1 in genetically mediated demyelination in mice and Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 1 disease in humans. Thus, colony-stimulating factor-1 or its cognate receptor are promising target molecules for treating the detrimental, low-grade inflammation of several inherited neuropathies in humans.

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