Post-mortem multiple sclerosis lesion pathology is influenced by single nucleotide polymorphisms

Brain Pathol. 2020 Jan;30(1):106-119. doi: 10.1111/bpa.12760. Epub 2019 Jul 23.


Over the last few decades, several common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have been identified that correlate with clinical outcome in multiple sclerosis (MS), but the pathogenic mechanisms underlying the clinical effects of these SNPs are unknown. This is in part because of the difficulty in the functional translation of genotype into disease-relevant mechanisms. Building on our recent work showing the association of clinical disease course with post-mortem MS lesion characteristics, we hypothesized that SNPs that correlate with clinical disease course would also correlate with specific MS lesion characteristics in autopsy tissue. To test this hypothesis, 179 MS brain donors from the Netherlands Brain Bank MS autopsy cohort were genotyped for 102 SNPs, selected based on their reported associations with clinical outcome or their associations with genes that show differential gene expression in MS lesions. Three SNPs linked to MS clinical severity showed a significant association between the genotype and either the proportion of active lesions (rs2234978/FAS and rs11957313/KCNIP1) or the proportion of mixed active/inactive lesions (rs8056098/CLEC16A). Three SNPs linked to MS pathology-associated genes showed a significant association with either proportion of active lesions (rs3130253/MOG), incidence of cortical gray matter lesions (rs1064395/NCAN) or the proportion of remyelinated lesions (rs5742909/CTLA4). In addition, rs2234978/FAS T-allele carriers showed increased FAS gene expression levels in perivascular T cells and perilesional oligodendrocytes, cell types that have been implicated in MS lesion formation. Thus, by combining pathological characterization of MS brain autopsy tissue with genetics, we now start to translate genotypes linked to clinical outcomes in MS into mechanisms involved in MS lesion pathogenesis.

Keywords: CLEC16A; FAS; NCAN; multiple sclerosis; neuropathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autopsy / methods
  • Brain / pathology
  • CTLA-4 Antigen / genetics
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Humans
  • Kv Channel-Interacting Proteins / genetics
  • Lectins, C-Type / genetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Multiple Sclerosis / genetics*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Oligodendroglia / pathology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics*
  • fas Receptor / genetics


  • CLEC16A protein, human
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • CTLA4 protein, human
  • FAS protein, human
  • KCNIP1 protein, human
  • Kv Channel-Interacting Proteins
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • fas Receptor