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The association between neurodegeneration and local complement activation in the thalamus to progressive multiple sclerosis outcome

Abstract

The extent of grey matter demyelination and neurodegeneration in the progressive multiple sclerosis (PMS) brains at post‐mortem associates with more severe disease. Regional tissue atrophy, especially affecting the cortical and deep grey matter, including the thalamus, is prognostic for poor outcomes. Microglial and complement activation are important in the pathogenesis and contribute to damaging processes that underlie tissue atrophy in PMS. We investigated the extent of pathology and innate immune activation in the thalamus in comparison to cortical grey and white matter in blocks from 21 cases of PMS and 10 matched controls. Using a digital pathology workflow, we show that the thalamus is invariably affected by demyelination and had a far higher proportion of active inflammatory lesions than forebrain cortical tissue blocks from the same cases. Lesions were larger and more frequent in the medial nuclei near the ventricular margin, whilst neuronal loss was greatest in the lateral thalamic nuclei. The extent of thalamic neuron loss was not associated with thalamic demyelination but correlated with the burden of white matter pathology in other forebrain areas (Spearman r = 0.79, p < 0.0001). Only thalamic neuronal loss, and not that seen in other forebrain cortical areas, correlated with disease duration (Spearman r = −0.58, p = 0.009) and age of death (Spearman r = −0.47, p = 0.045). Immunoreactivity for the complement pattern recognition molecule C1q, and products of complement activation (C4d, Bb and C3b) were elevated in thalamic lesions with an active inflammatory pathology. Complement regulatory protein, C1 inhibitor, was unchanged in expression. We conclude that active inflammatory demyelination, neuronal loss and local complement synthesis and activation in the thalamus, are important to the pathological and clinical disease outcomes of PMS

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This paper was published in Cronfa at Swansea University.

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