Growth associated protein (GAP-43): cloning and the development of a sensitive ELISA for neurological disorders.
Axonal damage in multiple sclerosis (MS) is correlated to disease progression. Early axonal damage may be compensated for by regenerative processes. Growth-associated protein 43 (GAP-43) is a marker for axonal growth and synaptogenesis in various neurodegenerative diseases. We investigated the expression of GAP-43 in 48 MS grey and white matter lesions of different stages. Decreased GAP-43 expression was found in 74% of the white matter lesions, independent of the lesion stage. In 19 out of 35 white matter lesions, areas of increased GAP-43 expression were present immediately adjacent to the lesions. Increased or unaltered expression was observed in remyelinated lesions. GAP-43 was expressed in neurofilament-positive structures. GAP-43 expression appeared unchanged in grey matter lesions. Macrophages were present in the areas of changed GAP-43 expression. cerebrospinal fluid GAP-43 levels were negatively correlated with magnetic resonance imaging measures of whole-brain atrophy (r = -0.30). In conclusion, these results indicate that decreased GAP-43 immunopositivity reflects axonal damage in MS lesions, which may again be reflected in decreased cerebrospinal fluid levels. The increased levels of GAP-43 in remyelinated or nondemyelinated white matter close to MS lesions may reflect regenerative attempts by damaged axons.