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Original research
Ultrastructural mechanisms of macrophage-induced demyelination in Guillain-Barré syndrome
  1. Haruki Koike1,
  2. Yuki Fukami1,
  3. Ryoji Nishi1,
  4. Yuichi Kawagashira1,
  5. Masahiro Iijima1,
  6. Masahisa Katsuno1,
  7. Gen Sobue1,2
  1. 1 Department of Neurology, Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, Nagoya, Japan
  2. 2 Research Division of Dementia and Neurodegenerative Disease, Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, Nagoya, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Haruki Koike, Neurology, Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, Nagoya 466-8550, Japan; koike-haruki{at}


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.

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  • Contributors HK and GS developed the concept and design of the article. HK, YF, RN, YK, MI and GS compiled and analysed the pathological data. MK and GS performed the critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content. HK wrote the first draft, and all of the authors critically evaluated the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by grants from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (Research on rare and intractable diseases, H29-022) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (17K09777) of Japan.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request.

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