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Ferroptosis of Microglia in Aging Human White Matter Injury.

Annals of Neurology 2023 December
OBJECTIVE: Because the role of white matter (WM) degenerating microglia (DM) in remyelination failure is unclear, we sought to define the core features of this novel population of aging human microglia.

METHODS: We analyzed postmortem human brain tissue to define a population of DM in aging WM lesions. We used immunofluorescence staining and gene expression analysis to investigate molecular mechanisms related to the degeneration of DM.

RESULTS: We found that DM, which accumulated myelin debris were selectively enriched in the iron-binding protein light chain ferritin, and accumulated PLIN2-labeled lipid droplets. DM displayed lipid peroxidation injury and enhanced expression for TOM20, a mitochondrial translocase, and a sensor of oxidative stress. DM also displayed enhanced expression of the DNA fragmentation marker phospho-histone H2A.X. We identified a unique set of ferroptosis-related genes involving iron-mediated lipid dysmetabolism and oxidative stress that were preferentially expressed in WM injury relative to gray matter neurodegeneration.

INTERPRETATION: Ferroptosis appears to be a major mechanism of WM injury in Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. WM DM are a novel therapeutic target to potentially reduce the impact of WM injury and myelin loss on the progression of cognitive impairment. ANN NEUROL 2023;94:1048-1066.

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