B-cell enrichment and Epstein-Barr virus infection in inflammatory cortical lesions in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2013 Jan;72(1):29-41. doi: 10.1097/NEN.0b013e31827bfc62.


Gray matter lesions are thought to play a key role in the progression of disability and cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, but whether gray matter damage is caused by inflammation or secondary to axon loss in the white matter, or both, is not clear. In an analysis of postmortem brain samples from 44 cases of secondary progressive MS, 26 cases were characterized by meningeal inflammation with ectopic B-cell follicles and prominent gray matter pathology; subpial cortical lesions containing dense perivascular lymphocytic infiltrates were present in 11 of these cases. Because intracortical immune infiltrates were enriched in B-lineage cells and because we have shown previously that B cells accumulating in the MS brain support an active Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, we investigated evidence of EBV in the infiltrated cortical lesions. Cells expressing EBV-encoded small RNA and plasma cells expressing EBV early lytic proteins (BZLF1, BFRF1) were present in all and most of the intracortical perivascular cuffs examined, respectively. Immunohistochemistry for CD8-positive cells, granzyme B, perforin, and CD107a indicated cytotoxic activity toward EBV-infected plasma cells that was consistently observed in infiltrated cortical lesions, suggesting active immune surveillance. These findings indicate that both meningeal and intraparenchymal inflammation may contribute to cortical damage during MS progression, and that intracortical inflammation may be sustained by an EBV-driven immunopathologic response, similar to findings in white matter lesions and meninges.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Cerebral Cortex / immunology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / virology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / pathology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / virology
  • Prospective Studies