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Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2014 Feb 14;2:21. doi: 10.1186/2051-5960-2-21.

Phenotypic profile of alternative activation marker CD163 is different in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

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Neuropathology Unit, Division of Brain Sciences, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, Charing Cross Campus, St Dunstan's Road, London, UK.



Microglial activation is a pathological feature common to both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases (AD and PD). The classical activation involves release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen species. This is necessary for maintenance of tissue homeostasis and host defense, but can cause bystander damage when the activation is sustained and uncontrolled. In recent years the heterogeneous nature of microglial activation states in neurodegenerative diseases has become clear and the focus has shifted to alternative activation states that promote tissue maintenance and repair. We studied the distribution of CD163, a membrane-bound scavenger receptor found on perivascular macrophages. CD163 has an immunoregulatory function, and has been found in the parenchyma in other inflammatory diseases e.g. HIV-encephalitis and multiple sclerosis. In this study, we used immunohistochemistry to compare CD163 immunoreactivity in 31 AD cases, 27 PD cases, and 16 control cases. Associations of microglia with pathological hallmarks of AD and PD were investigated using double immunofluorescence.


Parenchymal microglia were found to be immunoreactive for CD163 in all of the AD cases, and to a lesser extent in PD cases. There was prominent staining of CD163 immunoreactive microglia in the frontal and occipital cortices of AD cases, and in the brainstem of PD cases. Many of them were associated with Aß plaques in both diseases, and double staining with CD68 demonstrates their phagocytic capability. Leakage of fibrinogen was observed around compromised blood vessels, raising the possibility these microglia might have originated from the periphery.


Increase in microglia's CD163 immunoreactivity was more significant in AD than PD, and association of CD163 immunoreactive microglia with Aβ plaques indicate microglia's attraction towards extracellular protein pathology, i.e. extracellular aggregates of Aβ as compared to intracellular Lewy Bodies in PD. Double staining with CD163 and CD68 might point towards their natural inclination to phagocytose plaques. Fibrinogen leakage and compromise of the blood brain barrier raise the possibility that these are not resident microglia, but systemic macrophages infiltrating the brain.

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