Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol 2002 Feb;28(1):35-41
Giordana MT, Richiardi P, Trevisan E, Boghi A, Palmucci L.
Department of Neuroscience, University of Turin, Turin, Italy.
The hallmark of the lesions in multiple sclerosis (MS) is inflammatory demyelination with sparing of axons.
Recent neuropathological and neuroradiological investigations show that structural changes of the axons occur, both in plaques and in the normal appearing white matter.
A better understanding of the axonal damage in MS is important, since this may be responsible for permanent disability.
We have investigated the immunoreactivity for ubiquitin, a sensitive method to detect axonal dystrophy and accumulation of abnormal proteins in pathological conditions of the nervous system, in the brains of six cases of MS (age range 39-66 years).
Tissue blocks were fixed in formalin and embedded in paraffin.
A panel of antibodies was used: anti-ubiquitin, anti-neurofilament (SMI-31 + SMI-32), anti-amyloid precursor protein and anti-PGP9.5.
We focused our attention on chronic plaques, recognized by the absence of Luxol Fast Blue B-positive inclusions in macrophages.
SMI-31 + SMI-32 showed the presence of a variable amount of axons within the plaques; the axonal network within the plaques was looser than outside.
No ubiquitin reactivity was present in chronic plaques.
In the normally myelinated white matter surrounding the plaques, a dense granular ubiquitin immunoreactivity was found both near and far from the plaque edge.
No similar staining was found in control brains.
Ubiquitination is the first step of a non-lysosomal degradation pathway of proteins.
The present findings suggest a derangement of this proteolytic pathway in the axons outside the plaques, possibly as a consequence of chronic absence of myelin in the axonal segment inside the plaque.
The spectrum of axonal changes in MS appears to be wider than expected and involves the apparently normal white matter.