Cytokine immunoreactivity in cortical and subcortical neurons in periventricular leukomalacia: are cytokines implicated in neuronal dysfunction in cerebral palsy?

Acta Neuropathol. 2003 Mar;105(3):209-16. doi: 10.1007/s00401-002-0633-6. Epub 2002 Nov 20.


The major neuropathological substrate associated with cerebral palsy (CP) is a form of white matter (WM) injury known as periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). Proinflammatory cytokines were recently shown to be implicated in PVL pathogenesis. Many PVL patients develop cortical and deep gray neuronal dysfunctions such as epilepsy, cognitive deficits and extrapyramidal disorders. The precise nature of the relationship between the WM lesion and the subsequent neuronal disorders is unclear. Cytokines were shown to exert neurotoxicity in experimental models. This raises the need to investigate a possible noxious effect by cytokines on neuronal cortical development. In situ immunohistochemical methods were applied on 22 brains from infants both with PVL (study group) and without PVL (control group) to detect any immunoreactivity for cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-6) in cortical and gray matter neurons. While cortical and other neuronal structures in PVL brains did not display noticeable pathological anomalies, strong cytokine immunoreactivity was detected in many neurons in the neocortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia and thalamus. There were, however, regional differences in cytokine labeling. In addition, there was more TNF-alpha staining than IL-1beta; IL-6 was negative. In contrast, neuronal cytokine labeling in the "control" brains was negligible. In conclusion, we report and characterize, for the first time, the in situ immunoreactivity for proinflammatory cytokines in cortical and deep gray neurons in PVL. These findings might provide insights into the neuro-anatomical correlate for the intellectual deficits and the other cortical and deep gray neuronal dysfunctions associated with PVL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebral Palsy / complications*
  • Cerebral Palsy / metabolism
  • Cerebral Palsy / pathology
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leukomalacia, Periventricular / etiology
  • Leukomalacia, Periventricular / metabolism*
  • Leukomalacia, Periventricular / pathology
  • Male
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology


  • Cytokines