Ultrastructural mechanisms of macrophage-induced demyelination in Guillain-Barré syndrome

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2020 Jun;91(6):650-659. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2019-322479. Epub 2020 Apr 3.


Objective: To describe the pathological features of Guillain-Barré syndrome focusing on macrophage-associated myelin lesions.

Methods: Longitudinal sections of sural nerve biopsy specimens from 11 patients with acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP) exhibiting macrophage-associated demyelinating lesions were examined using electron microscopy. A total of 1205 nodes of Ranvier were examined to determine the relationship of the macrophage-associated demyelinating lesions with the nodal regions. Additionally, immunohistochemical and immunofluorescent studies were performed to elucidate the sites of complement deposition.

Results: Overall, 252 macrophage-associated myelin lesions were identified in longitudinal sections. Of these, 40 lesions exhibited complete demyelination with no association with the lamellar structures of myelin. In 183 lesions, macrophage cytoplasm was located at internodes without association with the nodes of Ranvier or paranodes. In particular, these internodal lesions were more frequent in one patient (152 lesions). In the remaining 29 lesions, the involvement of nodal regions was obvious. Lesions involving nodal regions were more frequently observed than those involving internodes in four patients. Invasion of the macrophage cytoplasmic processes into the space between the paranodal myelin terminal loops and the axolemma from the nodes of Ranvier was observed in three of these patients. Immunostaining suggested complement deposition corresponding to putative initial macrophage-associated demyelinating lesions.

Conclusions: The initial macrophage-associated demyelinating lesions appeared to be located at internodes and at nodal regions. The sites at which the macrophages initiated phagocytosis of myelin might be associated with the location of complement deposition in certain patients with AIDP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Axons / pathology
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology*
  • Female
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Macrophages / ultrastructure*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelin Sheath / pathology
  • Myelin Sheath / ultrastructure*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Ranvier's Nodes / pathology
  • Ranvier's Nodes / ultrastructure