Neuroaxonal dystrophy in HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis: neuropathologic and neuroimmunologic correlations

Elizabeth Wu, Dennis W. Dickson, Steven Jacobson, Cedric S. Raine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Detailed neuropathologic and immunohistologic analysis of a case of serologically and polymerase chain reaction-confirmed human immunodeficiency virus type I (HTLV-I)-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) is reported in a 73-year-old North American black woman. In addition to the usual neuropathologic features of HAM/TSP, including tractal degeneration of the spinal cord, leptomeningeal and perivascular fibrosis, perivascular demyelination and chronic inflammation, neuroaxonal spheroids were prominent in the spinal cord. Neuroaxonal dystrophy was characterized by neurofilamentous masses that were immunoreactive for phosphorylated neurofilament epitopes, but not ubiquitin. Neuroimmunologic analysis of the inflammatory reaction revealed a prevalence of CD8+ T cells and class I major histocompatibility molecules (MHC) (HLA-ABC and β2-microglobulin), but very few CD4+ T cells. Microglia were highly reactive for class II MHC (HLA-DRα) and this was attributed to activation, rather than CD4 interaction, since CD4 presence was minimal. Inflammatory cytokine immunoreactivity was also detected in glia. It is concluded that the cumulative effects of cytotoxic T cell (CD8) infiltration and the possible involvement of cytokines were responsible for the unusual degree of neuroaxonal dystrophy and vascular fibrosis, as well as the observed demyelination in this case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-235
Number of pages12
JournalActa neuropathologica
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1993


  • Cytokines
  • HTLV-I
  • HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis
  • Myelopathy
  • Neuroaxonal dystrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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