Semiquantitative postembedding characterization of intermediate filaments in central nervous system lesions using immunoelectron microscopy
Standardized postembedding immunoelectron microscopy was performed to demonstrate glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and vimentin in individual intermediate filaments to determine the diagnostic value of demonstrating ultrastructural and immunophenotypic characteristics of intermediate filaments in routine brain biopsy specimens. Dual expression of GFAP and vimentin was observed in the astroblastoma and astrocytes of Alexander's disease. The antigen availability for vimentin, however, was too low to allow reliable assessment of the GFAP:vimentin ratio in individual intermediate filaments and/or filament bundles. In meningioma, only vimentin positive intermediate filaments were found. GFAP positive intermediate filaments were present in all other specimens except the oligodendroglial components of the mixed glioma, which were devoid of intermediate filaments. GFAP positivity in the filamentous periphery and electron-dense core of Rosenthal fibers was demonstrated. Technical and tissue processing factors had a significant effect on particle density values obtained for individual specimens. Although the number, distribution, and density of glial intermediate filaments varies in different astroglial entities, correlation of particle density values determined by immunoelectron microscopy with relative GFAP concentrations in different lesions requires utmost caution. Nevertheless, application of the postembedding approach to routinely fixed biopsy specimens indicated an association of different entities with the exclusive presence of GFAP and/or vimentin in individual intermediate filaments, thus emphasizing the diagnostic value of intermediate filament typing for pathological characterization.