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The landscape of myeloid and astrocyte phenotypes in acute multiple sclerosis lesions

By Calvin Park, Gerald Ponath, Maya Levine-Ritterman, Edward Bull, Eric C Swanson, Philip L. De Jager, Benjamin M Segal, David Pitt

Posted 09 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/632554 (published DOI: 10.1186/s40478-019-0779-2)

Activated myeloid cells and astrocytes are the predominant cell types in active multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions. Both cell types can adopt diverse functional states that play critical roles in lesion formation and resolution. In order to identify phenotypic subsets of myeloid cells and astrocytes, we profiled acute MS lesions with thirteen glial activation markers using imaging mass cytometry (IMC), a method for multiplexed labeling of histological sections. In a demyelinating lesion, we found multiple distinct myeloid and astrocyte phenotypes that populated separate lesion zones. In a post-demyelinating lesion, phenotypes were less distinct and more uniformly distributed. In both lesions cell-to-cell interactions were not random, but occurred between specific glial subpopulations and lymphocytes. Finally, we demonstrated that myeloid, but not astrocyte phenotypes were activated along a lesion rim-to-center gradient, and that marker expression in glial cells at the lesion rim was driven more by cell-extrinsic factors than in cells at the center. This proof-of-concept study demonstrates that highly multiplexed tissue imaging, combined with the appropriate computational tools, is a powerful approach to study heterogeneity, spatial distribution and cellular interactions in the context of MS lesions. Identifying glial phenotypes and their interactions at different lesion stages may provide novel therapeutic targets for inhibiting acute demyelination and low-grade, chronic inflammation.

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