Meningeal inflammation plays a role in the pathology of primary progressive multiple sclerosis

Brain. 2012 Oct;135(Pt 10):2925-37. doi: 10.1093/brain/aws189. Epub 2012 Aug 20.


The primary progressive form of multiple sclerosis is characterized by accrual of neurological dysfunction from disease onset without remission and it is still a matter of debate whether this disease course results from different pathogenetic mechanisms compared with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Inflammation in the leptomeninges has been identified as a key feature of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and may contribute to the extensive cortical pathology that accompanies progressive disease. Our aim was to investigate the extent of perivascular and meningeal inflammation in primary progressive multiple sclerosis in order to understand their contribution to the pathogenetic mechanisms associated with cortical pathology. A comprehensive immunohistochemical analysis was performed on post-mortem brain tissue from 26 cases with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. A variable extent of meningeal immune cell infiltration was detected and more extensive demyelination and neurite loss in the cortical grey matter was found in cases exhibiting an increased level of meningeal inflammation. However, no tertiary lymphoid-like structures were found. Profound microglial activation and reduction in neuronal density was observed in both the lesions and normal appearing grey matter compared with control cortex. Furthermore, cases with primary progressive multiple sclerosis with extensive meningeal immune cell infiltration exhibited a more severe clinical course, including a shorter disease duration and younger age at death. Our data suggest that generalized diffuse meningeal inflammation and the associated inflammatory milieu in the subarachnoid compartment plays a role in the pathogenesis of cortical grey matter lesions and an increased rate of clinical progression in primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Demyelinating Diseases / immunology
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Male
  • Meninges / immunology*
  • Meninges / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / pathology*
  • Time Factors