We used immunohistochemistry to assess the role of humoral and cellular factors in endoneurial microangiopathy and epineurial vasculitis in 15 nerve biopsies of patients with axonal neuropathy and monoclonal or mixed cryoglobulinemia (CG). Deposition of immunoglobulins and cytolytic complement was detected in endoneurial capillaries of patients with mixed CG. Epineurial inflammatory infiltrates containing beta-2-integrin-positive lymphocytes and monocytes surrounded arterioles expressing cell adhesion molecules, thus suggesting a cell-mediated pathogenesis of the epineurial vasculitis. On the other hand, the absence of immune complex deposition and polymorphonuclear elements suggests a minor role for the humoral mechanisms in the formation of the vasculitic lesions. This study indicates that both cell-mediated mechanisms and immune complexes/cryoglobulins are involved, although at different levels, in the pathogenesis of CG neuropathy.
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