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1.  Motor Skill Learning Induces Changes in White Matter Microstructure and Myelination 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(50):19499-19503.
Learning a novel motor skill is associated with well characterized structural and functional plasticity in the rodent motor cortex. Furthermore, neuroimaging studies of visuomotor learning in humans have suggested that structural plasticity can occur in white matter (WM), but the biological basis for such changes is unclear. We assessed the influence of motor skill learning on WM structure within sensorimotor cortex using both diffusion MRI fractional anisotropy (FA) and quantitative immunohistochemistry. Seventy-two adult (male) rats were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (skilled reaching, unskilled reaching, and caged control). After 11 d of training, postmortem diffusion MRI revealed significantly higher FA in the skilled reaching group compared with the control groups, specifically in the WM subjacent to the sensorimotor cortex contralateral to the trained limb. In addition, within the skilled reaching group, FA across widespread regions of WM in the contralateral hemisphere correlated significantly with learning rate. Immunohistological analysis conducted on a subset of 24 animals (eight per group) revealed significantly increased myelin staining in the WM underlying motor cortex in the hemisphere contralateral (but not ipsilateral) to the trained limb for the skilled learning group versus the control groups. Within the trained hemisphere (but not the untrained hemisphere), myelin staining density correlated significantly with learning rate. Our results suggest that learning a novel motor skill induces structural change in task-relevant WM pathways and that these changes may in part reflect learning-related increases in myelination.
PMCID: PMC3858622  PMID: 24336716
2.  TRPV1 Gates Tissue Access and Sustains Pathogenicity in Autoimmune Encephalitis 
Molecular Medicine  2013;19(1):149-159.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic progressive, demyelinating condition whose therapeutic needs are unmet, and whose pathoetiology is elusive. We report that transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 (TRPV1) expressed in a major sensory neuron subset, controls severity and progression of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in mice and likely in primary progressive MS. TRPV1−/− B6 congenics are protected from EAE. Increased survival reflects reduced central nervous systems (CNS) infiltration, despite indistinguishable T cell autoreactivity and pathogenicity in the periphery of TRPV1-sufficient and -deficient mice. The TRPV1+ neurovascular complex defining the blood-CNS barriers promoted invasion of pathogenic lymphocytes without the contribution of TRPV1-dependent neuropeptides such as substance P. In MS patients, we found a selective risk-association of the missense rs877610 TRPV1 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in primary progressive disease. Our findings indicate that TRPV1 is a critical disease modifier in EAE, and we identify a predictor of severe disease course and a novel target for MS therapy.
PMCID: PMC3745593  PMID: 23689362
3.  A combined post-mortem magnetic resonance imaging and quantitative histological study of multiple sclerosis pathology 
Brain  2012;135(10):2938-2951.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory neurological condition characterized by focal and diffuse neurodegeneration and demyelination throughout the central nervous system. Factors influencing the progression of pathology are poorly understood. One hypothesis is that anatomical connectivity influences the spread of neurodegeneration. This predicts that measures of neurodegeneration will correlate most strongly between interconnected structures. However, such patterns have been difficult to quantify through post-mortem neuropathology or in vivo scanning alone. In this study, we used the complementary approaches of whole brain post-mortem magnetic resonance imaging and quantitative histology to assess patterns of multiple sclerosis pathology. Two thalamo-cortical projection systems were considered based on their distinct neuroanatomy and their documented involvement in multiple sclerosis: lateral geniculate nucleus to primary visual cortex and mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus to prefrontal cortex. Within the anatomically distinct thalamo-cortical projection systems, magnetic resonance imaging derived cortical thickness was correlated significantly with both a measure of myelination in the connected tract and a measure of connected thalamic nucleus cell density. Such correlations did not exist between these markers of neurodegeneration across different thalamo-cortical systems. Magnetic resonance imaging lesion analysis depicted clearly demarcated subcortical lesions impinging on the white matter tracts of interest; however, quantitation of the extent of lesion-tract overlap failed to demonstrate any appreciable association with the severity of markers of diffuse pathology within each thalamo-cortical projection system. Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging metrics in both white matter tracts were correlated significantly with a histologically derived measure of tract myelination. These data demonstrate for the first time the relevance of functional anatomical connectivity to the spread of multiple sclerosis pathology in a ‘tract-specific’ pattern. Furthermore, the persisting relationship between metrics from post-mortem diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging and histological measures from fixed tissue further validates the potential of imaging for future neuropathological studies.
PMCID: PMC3470716  PMID: 23065787
multiple sclerosis; post-mortem imaging; diffusion imaging; white matter tracts; neurodegeneration
4.  Seasonal Distribution of Psychiatric Births in England 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34866.
There is general consensus that season of birth influences the risk of developing psychiatric conditions later in life. We aimed to investigate whether the risk of schizophrenia (SC), bipolar affective disorder (BAD) and recurrent depressive disorder (RDD) is influenced by month of birth in England to a similar extent as other countries using the largest cohort of English patients collected to date (n=57,971). When cases were compared to the general English population (n=29,183,034) all diseases showed a seasonal distribution of births (SC p=2.48E-05; BAD p=0.019; RDD p=0.015). This data has implications for future strategies of disease prevention.
PMCID: PMC3319623  PMID: 22496872
5.  Concurrent multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: where inflammation and neurodegeneration meet? 
The concurrence of multiple sclerosis (MS) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is exceedingly rare and the pathological features have not been examined extensively. Here we describe the key pathological features of a 40 year old man with pathologically confirmed concurrent MS and ALS.
This is the most pathologically illustrative case of coincident MS and ALS demonstrating inflammatory and neurodegenerative features characteristic of each disease, and is the first to exhibit the presence of TDP-43 inclusions in this clinical entity. The intricate relationship between neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in these diseases is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3308920  PMID: 22269588
multiple sclerosis; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; neuropathology; inflammation; neurodegeneration
6.  Expression of the Multiple Sclerosis-Associated MHC Class II Allele HLA-DRB1*1501 Is Regulated by Vitamin D 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(2):e1000369.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex trait in which allelic variation in the MHC class II region exerts the single strongest effect on genetic risk. Epidemiological data in MS provide strong evidence that environmental factors act at a population level to influence the unusual geographical distribution of this disease. Growing evidence implicates sunlight or vitamin D as a key environmental factor in aetiology. We hypothesised that this environmental candidate might interact with inherited factors and sought responsive regulatory elements in the MHC class II region. Sequence analysis localised a single MHC vitamin D response element (VDRE) to the promoter region of HLA-DRB1. Sequencing of this promoter in greater than 1,000 chromosomes from HLA-DRB1 homozygotes showed absolute conservation of this putative VDRE on HLA-DRB1*15 haplotypes. In contrast, there was striking variation among non–MS-associated haplotypes. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed specific recruitment of vitamin D receptor to the VDRE in the HLA-DRB1*15 promoter, confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments using lymphoblastoid cells homozygous for HLA-DRB1*15. Transient transfection using a luciferase reporter assay showed a functional role for this VDRE. B cells transiently transfected with the HLA-DRB1*15 gene promoter showed increased expression on stimulation with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (P = 0.002) that was lost both on deletion of the VDRE or with the homologous “VDRE” sequence found in non–MS-associated HLA-DRB1 haplotypes. Flow cytometric analysis showed a specific increase in the cell surface expression of HLA-DRB1 upon addition of vitamin D only in HLA-DRB1*15 bearing lymphoblastoid cells. This study further implicates vitamin D as a strong environmental candidate in MS by demonstrating direct functional interaction with the major locus determining genetic susceptibility. These findings support a connection between the main epidemiological and genetic features of this disease with major practical implications for studies of disease mechanism and prevention.
Author Summary
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurological disease with a strong genetic component. The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) on chromosome 6 exerts the strongest genetic effect on disease risk. A region at or near the HLA-DRB1 locus in the MHC influences the risk of MS. HLA-DRB1 has over 400 different alleles. The dominant haplotype of Northern Europe, marked by the presence of DRB1*1501, increases risk of MS by 3-fold. The environment also plays a key role in MS. The most striking illustration of this is the geographical distribution of the disease in populations matched for ethnicity. This has led to the proposal that sunshine, and in particular, vitamin D, is an environmental factor influencing the risk of MS. Circumstantial evidence supporting this comes from studies showing the involvement of vitamin D in immune and nervous system function. The current investigation sought to uncover any relationship between vitamin D and HLA-DRB1. It was found that vitamin D specifically interacts with HLA-DRB1*1501 to influence its expression. This study therefore provides more direct support for the already strong epidemiological evidence implicating sunlight and vitamin D in the determination of MS risk, and implies that vitamin D supplementation at critical time periods may be key to disease prevention.
PMCID: PMC2627899  PMID: 19197344
7.  No effect of preterm birth on the risk of multiple sclerosis: a population based study 
BMC Neurology  2008;8:30.
Genetic and environmental factors have important roles in multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility. A clear parent of origin effect has been shown in several populations, perhaps resulting from factors operating during gestation. Preterm birth (birth at less than 37 weeks gestational age) has been shown to result in long-term health problems, including impaired neurological development. Here, in a population-based cohort, we investigate whether preterm birth increases the risk to subsequently develop MS.
We identified 6585 MS index cases and 2509 spousal controls with preterm birth information from the Canadian Collaborative Project on Genetic Susceptibility to MS. Rates of individuals born preterm were compared for index cases and controls.
There were no significant differences between cases and controls with respect to preterm births. 370 (5.6%) MS index cases and 130 (5.2%) spousal controls were born preterm, p = 0.41.
Preterm birth does not appear to contribute to MS aetiology. Other factors involved in foetal and early development need to be explored to elucidate the mechanism of the increased risk conferred by the apparent maternal effect.
PMCID: PMC2518551  PMID: 18673559
8.  Methylation of class II transactivator gene promoter IV is not associated with susceptibility to Multiple Sclerosis 
BMC Medical Genetics  2008;9:63.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex trait in which alleles at or near the class II loci HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 contribute significantly to genetic risk. The MHC class II transactivator (MHC2TA) is the master controller of expression of class II genes, and methylation of the promoter of this gene has been previously been shown to alter its function. In this study we sought to assess whether or not methylation of the MHC2TA promoter pIV could contribute to MS disease aetiology.
In DNA from peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a sample of 50 monozygotic disease discordant MS twins the MHC2TA promoter IV was sequenced and analysed by methylation specific PCR.
No methylation or sequence variation of the MHC2TA promoter pIV was found.
The results of this study cannot support the notion that methylation of the pIV promoter of MHC2TA contributes to MS disease risk, although tissue and timing specific epigenetic modifications cannot be ruled out.
PMCID: PMC2464579  PMID: 18606010
9.  The Inheritance of Resistance Alleles in Multiple Sclerosis 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(9):e150.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex trait in which alleles at or near the class II loci HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 contribute significantly to genetic risk. HLA-DRB1*15 and HLA-DRB1*17-bearing haplotypes and interactions at the HLA-DRB1 locus increase risk of MS but it has taken large samples to identify resistance HLA-DRB1 alleles. In this investigation of 7,093 individuals from 1,432 MS families, we have assessed the validity, mode of inheritance, associated genotypes, and the interactions of HLA-DRB1 resistance alleles. HLA-DRB1*14-, HLA-DRB1*11-, HLA-DRB1*01-, and HLA-DRB1*10-bearing haplotypes are protective overall but they appear to operate by different mechanisms. The first type of resistance allele is characterised by HLA-DRB1*14 and HLA-DRB1*11. Each shows a multiplicative mode of inheritance indicating a broadly acting suppression of risk, but a different degree of protection. In contrast, a second type is exemplified by HLA-DRB1*10 and HLA-DRB1*01. These alleles are significantly protective when they interact specifically in trans with HLA-DRB1*15-bearing haplotypes. HLA-DRB1*01 and HLA-DRB1*10 do not interact with HLA-DRB1*17, implying that several mechanisms may be operative in major histocompatibility complex–associated MS susceptibility, perhaps analogous to the resistance alleles. There are major practical implications for risk and for the exploration of mechanisms in animal models. Restriction of antigen presentation by HLA-DRB1*15 seems an improbably simple mechanism of major histocompatibility complex–associated susceptibility.
Author Summary
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurological disease with a strong genetic component. With the possible exception of a weak association at Chromosome 5p, the major histocompatibility complex is the only locus consistently linked to MS. Because of this the major histocompatibility complex has recently undergone renewed attention. A region at or near the gene HLA-DRB1 influences the risk of MS. HLA-DRB1 comes in over 400 different forms (or alleles). A common form in Europe, named 1501, increases risk of MS by 3-fold. In this paper, to our knowledge the largest-ever analysis of this region in MS, we examine the inheritance of newly discovered HLA-DRB1 MS resistance alleles, namely HLA-DRB1*14, HLA-DRB1*11, *10, and HLA-DRB1*01. We show that HLA-DRB1*14 and HLA-DRB1*11 are dominantly protective; e.g., HLA-DRB1*14 significantly reduces the risk associated with HLA-DRB1*15 when they are inherited together. This may explain, in part, why MS is rare in Asia; there, the HLA-DRB1*14 allele is frequent. HLA-DRB1*01 and HLA-DRB1*10 are protective only in the presence of HLA-DRB1*15. HLA-DRB1*14 and HLA-DRB1*11 haplotypes and HLA-DRB1*01 and HLA-DRB1*10 haplotypes share common ancestral origins and this may be why the alleles can be grouped in terms of their protective nature. Discovery of the mechanism of protection against MS may lead to the discovery of new treatments to make a palpable difference in the lives of those who have been affected by this devastating disease.
PMCID: PMC1971120  PMID: 17845076

Results 1-9 (9)