Pathogenic implications of cerebrospinal fluid barrier pathology in neuromyelitis optica

Yong Guo, Stephen D. Weigand, Bogdan F. Popescu, Vanda A. Lennon, Joseph E. Parisi, Sean J. Pittock, Natalie E. Parks, Stacey L. Clardy, Charles L. Howe, Claudia F. Lucchinetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Pathogenic autoantibodies associated with neuromyelitis optica (NMO) induce disease by targeting aquaporin-4 (AQP4) water channels enriched on astrocytic endfeet at blood–brain interfaces. AQP4 is also expressed at cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)–brain interfaces, such as the pial glia limitans and the ependyma and at the choroid plexus blood–CSF barrier. However, little is known regarding pathology at these sites in NMO. Therefore, we evaluated AQP4 expression, microglial reactivity, and complement deposition at pial and ependymal surfaces and in the fourth ventricle choroid plexus in 23 autopsy cases with clinically and/or pathologically confirmed NMO or NMO spectrum disorder. These findings were compared to five cases with multiple sclerosis, five cases of choroid plexus papilloma, and five control cases without central nervous system disease. In the NMO cases, AQP4 immunoreactivity was reduced relative to control levels in the pia (91%; 21/23), ependyma (56%; 9/16), and choroid plexus epithelium (100%; 12/12). AQP4 immunoreactivity was normal in MS cases in these regions. Compared to MS, NMO cases also showed a focal pattern of pial and ependymal complement deposition and more pronounced microglial reactivity. In addition, AQP4 loss, microglial reactivity, and complement deposition colocalized along the pia and ependyma only in NMO cases. Within the choroid plexus, AQP4 loss was coincident with C9neo immunoreactivity on epithelial cell membranes only in NMO cases. These observations demonstrate that NMO immunopathology extends beyond perivascular astrocytic foot processes to include the pia, ependyma, and choroid plexus, suggesting that NMO IgG-induced pathological alterations at CSF–brain and blood–CSF interfaces may contribute to the occurrence of ventriculitis, leptomeningitis, and hydrocephalus observed among NMO patients. Moreover, disruption of the blood–CSF barrier induced by binding of NMO IgG to AQP4 on the basolateral surface of choroid plexus epithelial cells may provide a unique portal for entry of the pathogenic antibody into the central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-612
Number of pages16
JournalActa neuropathologica
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Astrocyte
  • Choroid plexus
  • Complement
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Immunopathology
  • Leptomeninges

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Pathogenic implications of cerebrospinal fluid barrier pathology in neuromyelitis optica'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this