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Simultaneous detection of ferritin and HIV-1 in reactive microglia

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Using ferritin as a marker of reactive microglia, we demonstrated a close association between proliferation of reactive microglia and expression of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in brain tissue from autopsied cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). An increased number of ferritin-positive reactive microglia was observed in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded brain sections from all 13 AIDS cases examined. Similar findings were observed in brain tissue from other neurological diseases (subacute sclerosing penencephalitis, herpes simplex encephalitis and multiple sclerosis). Multinucleated giant cells were found in 7 of the AIDS cases which were also intensely labeled for ferritin. Dual-label immunohistochemistry using anti-ferritin and cell-specific markers showed that ferritin-positive cells were distinct from astrocytes, neurons and endothelia using anti-glial fibrillary acidic protein (anti-GFAP), anti-neurofilament protein and Ulex europaeus agglutinin 1, respectively. In 5 AIDS brains, only ferritin-positive cells were shown to contain HIV-1 gp41 antigen using dual-label immunohistochemistry. In addition, HIV-1 RNA was localized in territin-positive reactive microglia but not in GFAP-positive astrocytes using immunohistochemistry combined with in situ hybridization. Ferritin-positive reactive microglia and multinucleated giant cells were colabeled with the microglial marker, Ricinus communis agglutinin 1 (RCA-1). Howerver, RCA-1 also extensively stained resting microglia only a few of which were colabeled for ferritin. The density of ferritin-positive cells was correlated with the presence of HIV-1 RNA-positive cells in AIDS brain. Thus, ferritin immunoreactivity can be used as an activation marker of microglia in archival paraffin sections and reflects the extent of inflammation in HIV-1-infected brain.

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Supported in part by NIH Grants RO1 DA04787, RO1 HD26621, PO1 NS25569, the Biopsychosocial Center for the Study of AIDS (NIMH P50 MH 43455), the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Mary Jane Crowe Foundation, the Swedish Society of Medicine (Stockholm, Sweden), and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Göteborg (Göteborg, Sweden)

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Yoshioka, M., Shapshak, P., Sun, N.C.J. et al. Simultaneous detection of ferritin and HIV-1 in reactive microglia. Acta Neuropathol 84, 297–306 (1992).

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Key words

  • Ferritin
  • Human immunodeficiency virus type 1
  • Microglia
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In situ hybridization