Although various neurodegenerative disorders have been associated with coeliac disease (CD), the underlying neuropathological link between these brain and gut diseases remains unclear. We postulated that the neuronal damage sporadically observed in CD patients is immune-mediated. Our aim was to determine if the loss of neurons, especially Purkinje cells, coincides with microglia activation and T- and B-cell infiltration in the cerebellum of patients with CD and a concomitant idiopathic neurological disease affecting the cerebellum (NeuroCD). Post-mortem cerebellar tissue was collected of validated NeuroCD cases. Gender- and age-matched genetic spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) controls and non-neurological controls (NNC) were selected based on clinical reports and pathological findings. Cerebellar tissue of seventeen patients was included (6 NeuroCD, 5 SCA, 6 NNC). In SCA cases we found that the Purkinje cell layer was 58.6% reduced in comparison with NNC. In NeuroCD cases this reduction was even more prominent with a median reduction of 81.3% compared to NNC. Marked increased numbers of both CD3+ and CD8+ cells were observed in the NeuroCD but not in SCA patients. This coincided with significantly more microglial reactivity in NeuroCD patients. These findings demonstrate that the massive loss of Purkinje cells in the cerebellum of neuro CD patients is accompanied by local innate and T-cell mediated immune responses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number51
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • Ataxia
  • Cerebellum
  • Coeliac disease
  • Encephalopathy
  • Gluten
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphocyte
  • Microglia
  • Neurological disorders
  • Purkinje cell

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