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PLoS One. 2016 Sep 23;11(9):e0163427. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0163427. eCollection 2016.

Study of Autophagy and Microangiopathy in Sural Nerves of Patients with Chronic Idiopathic Axonal Polyneuropathy.

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Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Department of Neurology, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Division of Cell Biology, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.
Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Twenty-five percent of polyneuropathies are idiopathic. Microangiopathy has been suggested to be a possible pathogenic cause of chronic idiopathic axonal polyneuropathy (CIAP). Dysfunction of the autophagy pathway has been implicated as a marker of neurodegeneration in the central nervous system, but the autophagy process is not explored in the peripheral nervous system. In the current study, we examined the presence of microangiopathy and autophagy-related structures in sural nerve biopsies of 10 patients with CIAP, 11 controls with inflammatory neuropathy and 10 controls without sensory polyneuropathy. We did not find any significant difference in endoneurial microangiopathic markers in patients with CIAP compared to normal controls, though we did find a correlation between basal lamina area thickness and age. Unexpectedly, we found a significantly larger basal lamina area thickness in patients with vasculitic neuropathy. Furthermore, we found a significantly higher density of endoneurial autophagy-related structures, particularly in patients with CIAP but also in patients with inflammatory neuropathy, compared to normal controls. It is unclear if the alteration in the autophagy pathway is a consequence or a cause of the neuropathy. Our results do not support the hypothesis that CIAP is primarily caused by a microangiopathic process in endoneurial blood vessels in peripheral nerves. The significantly higher density of autophagy structures in sural nerves obtained from patients with CIAP and inflammatory neuropathy vs. controls indicates the involvement of this pathway in neuropathy, particularly in CIAP, since the increase in density of autophagy-related structures was more pronounced in patients with CIAP than those with inflammatory neuropathy. To our knowledge this is the first report investigating signs of autophagy process in peripheral nerves in patients with CIAP and inflammatory neuropathy.

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