Journal of neuropathology and experimental neurology

Association of alpha-synuclein immunoreactivity with inflammatory activity in multiple sclerosis lesions.

PMID 19151622


Multiple sclerosis (MS) has neurodegenerative features including neuronal and axonal loss and widespread atrophy of the brain and spinal cord. The cause of this neurodegeneration has been largely attributed to inflammation, but other mechanisms, including those associated with classic neurodegenerative diseases such as the alpha-synucleinopathies, might also be involved in MS pathogenesis. In this study, 96 brain lesions containing varying degrees of inflammatory activity from 12 autopsied MS cases were compared with corresponding regions from 6 neuropathologically normal controls; 2 cerebral biopsy lesions from an MS patient were also studied. We found alpha-synuclein immunoreactivity in the cytoplasm of cells in MS lesions with inflammatory activity but not in control samples. alpha-Synuclein-immunoreactive cells were identified in active (15/15 lesions in the brainstem, 9/13 in cerebral hemispheres) and chronic active (14/15 in the brainstem, 12/22 in cerebral hemispheres) lesions but were absent in chronic inactive lesions (0/31); the greater immunoreactivity in brainstem compared with cerebral hemisphere lesions was significant (p < 0.05). Double-immunofluorescence staining revealed localization of alpha-synuclein immunoreactivity mostly in neurons, microglia/macrophages, and oligodendrocytes, and only rarely in astrocytes. The results suggest that alpha-synuclein expression regulated by inflammatory signals may contribute to neurodegenerative processes in MS lesions.