Glial alterations in human prion diseases: A correlative study of astroglia, reactive microglia, protein deposition, and neuropathological lesions

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Abstract

Background:

Neuroinflammation has recently been proposed to be a major component of neurodegenerative diseases. The aim of this study was to determine how the interaction between microglia and astroglia, which are the primary immune cell populations in the brain, and pathological prion protein (PrPsc) could influence the development and propagation of this neurodegenerative disease. Because a relevant role for glial response in prion disease has been clearly demonstrated in our previous studies using the natural animal model, a similar approach has been taken here using the natural human model.

Methods:

A morphological approach has been developed to analyze cerebellar samples from patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in comparison with healthy control cases. Histopathological lesions were assessed, and PrPsc, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and reactive microglia were immunolabelled by specific antibodies. Furthermore, co-location studies using confocal microscopy were performed to determine the possible relationships between both types of glial cells in all samples.

Results:

The results presented in this study support the involvement of both types of glial cells in CJD. Evidence of increased astrocyte and microglia reactivity can be observed in all CJD cases, and a close relationship between the types of glia is demonstrated by co-location studies.

Conclusion:

Proteinopathies such as Alzheimer, Parkinson, and Huntington diseases, where aberrant proteins spread throughout the brain during disease progression, may share a molecular basis and mechanisms of propagation. Therefore, studies elucidating the interaction between gliosis and prion propagation may be relevant to these other neurodegenerative diseases and may provide new targets for therapeutic intervention.

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