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Am J Pathol. 1997 Apr;150(4):1473-86.

Tumor necrosis factor-alpha expression in the brain during fatal murine cerebral malaria: evidence for production by microglia and astrocytes.

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Department of Pathology, University of Sydney, Australia.


Fatal murine cerebral malaria (FMCM) is an immunopathological process. The depletion of CD4+ T cells, or the administration of antioxidants or antibodies against certain cytokines, protect the mice against cerebral complications. We previously have shown that astrocytes, microglia, and monocytes play a role in the development of FMCM, suggesting that an active immune response occurs locally within the central nervous system. We now have investigated the functional involvement of glia and monocytes in FMCM by assessing 1) the production, 2) the temporal appearance, and 3) the cellular source of cytokine mRNA and protein in the brain. Brain sections from uninfected and FMCM mice were analyzed for the presence of cytokine mRNA and protein by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha mRNA and protein were associated with microglia and astrocytes, monocytes, and the cerebral vascular endothelium in FMCM mice but not uninfected animals. TNF-alpha mRNA was first detected several days before the animals showed cerebral symptoms and died. Interleukin (IL)-1 beta mRNA was found in the brains of both uninfected and FMCM mice. However, IL-1 beta protein was associated only with monocytes, the meningeal vascular endothelium, and neurons in the fronto-parietal cortex in the FMCM brains. No IL-4 or IL-6 mRNAs were detected in either group. These results provide the strongest evidence to date that cytokines, in particular TNF-alpha, produced locally in the central nervous system play a role in the pathogenesis of FMCM.

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