Apoptosis in human compressive myelopathy due to metastatic neoplasia

Rowena E. A. Newcombe, John W. Finnie, Anna V. Leonard, Jim Manavis, Peter L. Reilly, Robert Vink, Peter C. Blumbergs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Design. Immunohistochemical assessment of apoptotic markers in human cases of compressive myelopathy due to neoplastic compression. Objective. To characterize the role of apoptosis in neoplastic compressive myelopathy in human postmortem tissue with extramedullary tumor involvement. Summary of Background Data. Neoplasms, whether primary or metastatic, may lead to compression of the spinal cord and development of a compressive myelopathy syndrome. Apoptotic processes of cell death are thought to contribute to cell death in chronic compressive myelopathy because of degenerative spondylosis, but this has not previously been described in neoplastic compression. Methods. Six postmortem cases of human neoplastic compressive myelopathy were assessed for apoptosis using a panel of immunohistochemical markers including Fas, B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2), caspase-3 and 9, DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs), poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), and terminal deoxynucleotide transferase dUTP Nick End Labeling (TUNEL). Results. Apoptosis was maximal at the site of tumor compression. Glial cells, predominantly oligodendrocytes, were immunopositive for DNA-PKcs, PARP, AIF, and TUNEL. Axons were immunopositive for caspase 3, DNA-PKcs, and AIF. Neurons were immunopositive for DNA-PKcs, PARP, AIF, and TUNEL. Conclusion. The current study demonstrates that apoptosis plays a role in human neoplastic compressive myelopathy. Necrosis dominates the severe end of the spectrum of compression. The prominent oligodendroglial involvement is suggestive that apoptosis may be important in the ongoing remodeling of white matter due to sustained compression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E450-E457
Number of pages8
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • apoptosis
  • axonal injury
  • compressive myelopathy
  • neoplastic


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