Cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers link toxic astrogliosis and microglial activation to multiple sclerosis severity


Ruturaj Masvekar, Tianxia Wu, Peter Kosa, Christopher Barbour, Valentina Fossati, Bibiana Bielekova


Multiple sclerosis and related disorders


Background Once multiple sclerosis (MS) reaches the progressive stage, immunomodulatory treatments have limited efficacy. This suggests that processes other than activation of innate immunity may at least partially underlie disability progression during late stages of MS. Pathology identified these alternative processes as aberrant activation of astrocytes and microglia, and subsequent degeneration of oligodendrocytes and neurons. However, we mostly lack biomarkers that could measure central nervous system (CNS) cell-specific intrathecal processes in living subjects. This prevents differentiating pathogenic processes from an epiphenomenon. Therefore, we sought to develop biomarkers of CNS cell-specific processes and link them to disability progression in MS. Methods In a blinded manner, we measured over 1000 proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 431 patients with neuroimmunological diseases and healthy volunteers using modified DNA-aptamers (SOMAscanĀ®). We defined CNS cell type-enriched clusters using variable cluster analysis, combined with in vitro modeling. Differences between diagnostic categories were identified in the training cohort (n?=?217) and their correlation to disability measures were assessed; results were validated in an independent validation cohort (n?=?214). Results Astrocyte cluster 8 (MMP7, SERPINA3, GZMA and CLIC1) and microglial cluster 2 (DSG2 and TNFRSF25) were reproducibly elevated in MS and had a significant and reproducible correlation with MS severity suggesting their pathogenic role. In vitro studies demonstrated that proteins of astrocyte cluster 8 are noticeably released upon stimulation with proinflammatory stimuli and overlap with the phenotype of recently described neuro-toxic (A1) astrocytes. Conclusion Microglial activation and toxic astrogliosis are associated with MS disease process and may partake in CNS tissue destruction. This hypothesis should be tested in new clinical trials.



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