Gray matter pathology is an important aspect of multiple sclerosis (MS) pathogenesis and disease progression. In a recent study, we were able to demonstrate that the higher myelin content in the white matter parts of the brain is an important variable in the neuroinflammatory response during demyelinating events. Whether higher white matter myelination contributes to lesion development and progression is not known. Here, we compared lesion size of intra-cortical vs. white matter MS lesions. Furthermore, dynamics of lesion development was compared in the cuprizone and lysophosphatidylcholine models. We provide clear evidence that in the human brain, white matter lesions are significantly increased in size as compared to intra-cortical gray matter lesions. In addition, studies using the cuprizone mouse model revealed that the autonomous progression of white matter lesions is more severe compared to that in the gray matter. Focal demyelination revealed that the application of equal amounts of lysophosphatidylcholine results in more severe demyelination in the white compared to the gray matter. In summary, lesion progression is most intense in myelin-rich white matter regions, irrespective of the initial lesion trigger mechanism. A better understanding of myelin debris-triggered lesion expansion will pave the way for the development of new protective strategies in the future.
Keywords: Demyelination; Gray matter; Lesion expansion; Multiple sclerosis; Neurodegeneration; White matter.