Although Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is regarded as a white matter disease, the incidence of demyelination and axonal injury is prominent also in gray matter. In MS, extracellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is an important mediator of central nervous system pathology via its ability to cause oligodendrocyte excitotoxicity. We have analyzed the distribution pattern of all ionotropic P2X and metabotropic P2Y receptors for ATP in postmortem samples of the cerebral cortex from healthy human subjects as well as MS patients. We focus particularly on the P2Y(12) subtype that is highly enriched in oligodendrocytes. We correlate the expression of this receptor to the extent of gray matter demyelination and pathological alterations occurring during secondary progressive MS.
Using triple immunofluorescence and confocal analysis, we show that in sections of cerebral cortex from postmortem MS brains, the P2Y(12) protein is present in myelin and interlaminar astrocytes but absent from protoplasmic astrocytes residing in the deeper cortical layers, from microglia/macrophages, and from intact demyelinated axons. We report that a decreased P2Y(12) receptor immunoreactivity in proximity to the lesions is directly correlated with the extent of demyelination found in all types of gray matter cortical plaques (I-III) and subcortical white matter. Our study provides further insights into the pathogenetic features of MS and suggests that the loss of purinergic P2Y(12) receptors might be detrimental to tissue integrity.
PMID: 19783848 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]