Increased mast cell degranulation within thalamus in early pre-lesion stages of an experimental model of Wernicke's encephalopathy

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 1999 Jul;58(7):773-83. doi: 10.1097/00005072-199907000-00011.


A large increase in the number and percentage of degranulating mast cells was observed within thalamus of rats after 6-7 days of thiamine deficiency (TD). No mast cells were detected in the inferior olivary and lateral vestibular nuclei, which are also severely damaged by TD. After 11-12 days of TD, the number of ED2 immunopositive macrophages increased in thalamus. In the brainstem nuclei, an increase in the number of macrophages occurred much earlier in treatment (i.e. day 6). An increase in GFAP-positive astrocytes within thalamus occurred after the changes in mast cells and prior to the increase in macrophages. In brainstem, reactive astrocytes appeared along with the increase in macrophages. These data suggest that mast cell degranulation is a very early response induced by TD, and the resultant release of cytokines and other chemical mediators may play critical roles in both the early vascular damage and eventual tissue destruction within thalamus, but not within brainstem. These results also suggest that macrophages and reactive astrocytes may play more direct roles in the pathogenesis of brainstem lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / pathology
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Brain Stem / pathology
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Degranulation / physiology*
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Male
  • Mast Cells / pathology
  • Mast Cells / physiology*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Thalamus / pathology
  • Thalamus / physiopathology*
  • Wernicke Encephalopathy / pathology
  • Wernicke Encephalopathy / physiopathology*