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Ultrastruct Pathol. 2018 May-Jun;42(3):312-316. doi: 10.1080/01913123.2018.1454562. Epub 2018 Mar 27.

Neurofibromatous neuropathy: An ultrastructural study.

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a Neuromuscular Unit, Department of Systems Medicine , University of Rome Tor Vergata , Rome , Italy.
b Neurophysiopathology Unit, Department of Systems Medicine , University of Rome Tor Vergata , Rome , Italy.
c Neurosurgery Unit, Department of Systems Medicine , University of Rome Tor Vergata , Rome , Italy.
d Department of Medicine, Surgery, Neurology, Metabolic and Aging Science, Reference Center for Neurological and Neuromuscular Rare Disease , University of Campania "Luigi Vanvitelli," , Naples , Italy.


Plexiform neurofibroma is pathognomonic of neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1). An NF1-associated peripheral neuropathy has been described in a small minority of NF1 patients but its histopathological features are poorly characterized. We report the case of a 46-year-old woman presenting with bilateral supraclavicular painful masses without other stigmata of NF1. MRI showed bilateral plexiform lesions extending from cervical roots to the elbows. Nerve conduction studies documented a sensory motor polyneuropathy. Morphometric analysis of sural nerve biopsy showed a preferential loss of large-caliber myelinated fibers with a g ratio of 0.515, and the presence of regeneration clusters. By electron microscopy, marked and diffuse endoneurial fibrosis with an altered relationship between Schwann cells (SC) and collagen fibrils was observed. Moreover both myelinating and non-myelinating SC were characterized by the presence of various cell degradation products. These changes suggest that, in neurofibromatous neuropathy, a widespread axonal atrophy and degeneration take place independently on the presence of tumoral infiltration, possibly due to an impairment in SC-axon cross talk. In this case, the coexistence of plexiform neurofibromas with a peripheral neuropathy strongly suggests a diagnosis of NF1 even without fulfillment of clinical criteria. We propose that in the presence of plexiform neurofibromas, electrophysiological studies should be performed also in asymptomatic patients, in order to detect the existence of a subclinical neuropathy.


Electron microscopy; morphometric analysis; neurofibromatosis type I; neurofibromatous neuropathy; plexiform neurofibromas

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