Identification of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets and B cells in the brain of dogs with spontaneous acute, subacute-, and chronic-demyelinating distemper encephalitis

A. Wünschmann, S. Alldinger, E. Kremmer, W. Baumgärtner

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61 Scopus citations


CD4 and CD8 antigen expression of T cells as well as B cell and canine distemper virus (CDV) antigen distribution were immunohistologically examined in the cerebellum of dogs with spontaneous distemper encephalitis. Cellular and vital antigen expression were evaluated at intralesional and extralesional sites and in the perivascular space. Histologically, acute and subacute non-inflammatory encephalitis and subacute inflammatory and chronic plaques were distinguished. Demyelination was a feature of all subacute and chronic lesions, although the majority of plaques exhibited no or only a low level of active demyelination as demonstrated by single macrophages with luxol fast blue positive material in their cytoplasm. CDV antigen expression, observed in all distemper brains, was reduced in chronic plaques. CD4+, CD8+, and B cells were absent in controls and in some brains with acute encephalitis. A mild infiltration of CD8+ cells was noticed in the neuropil of the remaining brains with acute and all brains with subacute non- inflammatory encephalitis. Single CD4+ cells were found in two brains with acute and in all brains with subacute non-inflammatory encephalitis. Numerous CD8+ and CD4+ cells and few B cells, with a preponderance of CD8+ cells, were detected in subacute inflammatory and chronic lesions. In contrast, in perivascular infiltrates (PVI) of subacute and chronic lesions a dominance of CD4+ cells was detected. The dominating CD8+ cells in acute and subacute non- inflammatory encephalitis might be involved in viral clearance or contribute as antibody-independent cytotoxic T cells to early lesion development. In subacute inflammatory and chronic lesions CD8+ cells may function as cytotoxic effector cells and CD4+ cells by initiating a delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction. The simultaneous occurrence of perivascular B and CD4+ cells indicated that an antibody-mediated cytotoxicity could synergistically enhance demyelination. Summarized, temporal and spatial distribution of CD4+, CD8+ and B cells and virus antigen in early and late lesions support the hypothesis of a heterogeneous in part immune-mediated plaque pathogenesis in distemper demyelination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-116
Number of pages16
JournalVeterinary immunology and immunopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Annette Artelt and Sandra Heinz for excellent technical assistance, Ute Zeller for photographic support and Dr. K. Failing and H. Heiter for their help and advice for the statistical analyses. We thank Dr. P.F. Moore for kindly providing the anti-CD21 (like) mAb (clone CA2.1D6). A. Wünschmann received a research award from the Justus-Liebig-Universität, Giessen, Germany. This study was supported by grants of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Ba 815/4-1 and 815/4-2) and the Gemeinnützige Hertie-Stiftung.


  • B cells
  • CD4+ T cells
  • CD8+ T cells
  • Canine distemper virus
  • Demyelinating leukoencephalomyelitis
  • Immunopathology


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