Neurobiol Dis. 2008 May;30(2):162-73. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2008.01.001. Epub 2008 Jan 26.
Pattern of axonal injury in murine myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis: implications for multiple sclerosis.
Axonal damage is a correlate for increasing disability in multiple sclerosis. Animal models such as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) may help to develop better therapeutical neuroprotective strategies for the human disease. Here we investigate the pattern of axonal injury in murine myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein peptide 35-55 (MOG) induced EAE. Inflammatory infiltration, axonal densities and expression of amyloid precursor protein (APP), neurofilaments (SMI31 and 32) as well as expression of sodium channels were quantified in lesions, the perilesional area and normal appearing white matter (NAWM). Quantification of T cells and macrophages revealed a significant reduction of inflammatory infiltration at later disease stages despite an increase of demyelinated areas and persistent clinical disability. In lesions, axonal density was already significantly reduced early and throughout all investigated disease stages. A significant axonal loss was also seen in the grey matter and at later time points in the perilesion as well as NAWM. Numbers of axons characterized by non-phosphorylated neurofilaments and re-distribution of sodium channels 1.2 and 1.6 increased over the course of MOG-EAE whilst APP positive axons peaked at the maximum of disease. Finally, double-labeling experiments revealed a strong colocalization of sodium channels with APP, neurofilaments and the axonal nodal protein Caspr, but not glial and myelin markers in actively demyelinating lesions. In summary, progressive axonal loss distant from lesions is mainly associated with changes in neurofilament phosphorylation, re-distribution of sodium channels and demyelination. This axonal loss is dissociated from acute inflammatory infiltration and markedly correlates with clinical impairment. Consequently, therapeutic intervention may be promising at early stages of EAE focusing on inflammation, or later in disease targeting degenerative mechanisms.