Grey matter pathology in multiple sclerosis

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2005 Dec;64(12):1101-7. doi: 10.1097/01.jnen.0000190067.20935.42.


The aim of our study is to evaluate the extent and distribution of grey matter demyelinating lesions in multiple sclerosis (MS), addressing also neuronal loss and synaptic loss. Whole coronal sections of 6 MS brains and 6 control brains were selected. Immunohistochemistry was performed for myelin basic protein, neurofilaments, synaptophysin, ubiquitin, and activated caspase-3. Neuronal density and optical density of synaptophysin staining were estimated in cortical lesions and compared with those observed in corresponding areas of normal (i.e. nondemyelinated) cortex in the same section. Demyelinating lesions were observed in the cerebral cortex, in the thalamus, basal ganglia, and in the hippocampus. The percentage of demyelinated cortex was remarkable in 2 cases of secondary progressive MS (48% and 25.5%, respectively). Neuronal density was significantly reduced in cortical lesions (18-23% reduction), if compared with adjacent normal cortex, in the 2 cases showing the higher extent of cortical demyelination; in the same cases, very rare apoptotic neurons expressing caspase-3 were observed in cortical lesions and not in adjacent normal cortex. No significant decrease in optical density of synaptophysin staining was observed in cortical lesions. Grey matter demyelination and neuronal loss could contribute to disability and cognitive dysfunctions in MS.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Apoptosis
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cell Count
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Myelin Sheath / pathology
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Periaqueductal Gray / pathology*
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism


  • Ubiquitin