Peripheral benzodiazepine receptor imaging in CNS demyelination: Functional implications of anatomical and cellular localization

Ming Kai Chen, Kwamena Baidoo, Tatyana Verina, Tomás R. Guilarte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR) has been used as a sensitive marker to visualize and measure glial cell activation associated with various forms of brain injury and inflammation. Previous studies have shown that increased PBR levels following brain injury are specific to areas expressing activated glial cells. However, the contribution of glial cell types responsible for the increases in PBR levels following brain injury is not well defined. In the present study, we used a murine model of cuprizone-induced demyelination to broaden the application of PBR as a marker of brain injury and to validate the relationship between PBR levels and glial cell types. C57BL/6J mice were maintained on a cuprizone-containing or control diet and sacrificed at specific time points after initiation of treatment. Quantitative autoradiography of the PBR-selective ligand [3H]-(R)-PK11195 and [125I]-(R)-PK11195 showed that increased PBR levels were associated with the degree of demyelination assessed by Black-Gold histochemistry and activation of glial cells assessed by glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) immunohistochemistry for astrocytes and CD11b (Mac-1) for microglia. Our findings indicate that brain PBR levels increased as a function of dose and duration of cuprizone treatment and it was detectable prior to observable demyelination. Increased PBR levels were associated with the degree of demyelination and temporal activation of glial cell types in different anatomical regions. In the corpus striatum, we found a close anatomical correlation between microglial activation and increased PBR levels in demyelinating fibre tracts. In the deep cerebellar nuclei, the temporal increases in PBR paralleled demyelination and microglia and astrocyte activation. On the other hand, in the corpus callosum there was an apparent temporal shift in the increase in PBR levels by different glial cell types from an early and predominantly microglial contribution to a late microglial and astrocytic response. High-resolution emulsion autoradiography of [ 3H]-(R)-PK11195 binding to PBR coupled with GFAP or Mac-1 immunohistochemistry showed that demyelination-induced increases in PBR levels were co-localized to both microglia and astrocytes. These findings support the notion that PBR is a sensitive and specific marker for the in vitro and in vivo visualization and quantification of neuropathological changes in the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1379-1392
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • (R)-PK11195
  • Astrocyte
  • Cuprizone
  • Demyelination
  • Microglia
  • Peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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