Endothelial tight junction (TJ) expression is mostly absent in cerebral cavernous malformations (CMs), which causes increased perilesional erythrocyte and fluid oozing. However, in a subset of CM lesions, foci of preserved TJ staining are observed along endothelial cell contacts. The clinical relevance of this finding is unclear. This study investigates the relevance of the focal TJ protein expression and its association with CM bleeding propensity.
Immunohistochemical staining for the TJ proteins claudin-5, occludin, and ZO-1 was performed on 32 CM specimens that were resected during 2008–2010. The patients were allocated to 2 groups according to TJ protein expression, and the clinical and radiological parameters of aggressiveness were analyzed and compared.
Complete absence of TJ expression was identified in 20 specimens, and focal TJ protein expression in 12. CMs without TJ immunoreactivity were significantly larger (p = 0.022) and had a significantly greater propensity for development of frank hematomas (p = 0.028) and perilesional edema (p = 0.013). Symptom severity, multiplicity, developmental venous anomaly (DVA) presence, and CM location did not show a significant difference depending on TJ expression.
In a univariate analysis the authors observed significantly less propensity for frank hematomas and perilesional edema as well as smaller size in CM lesions with focal TJ expression compared with CMs without TJ expression. The observed difference in TJ protein expression might be the reason for differences in bleeding propensity of the CM lesions. Although this finding cannot be used in predictive manner at this time, it is a basis for further multivariate analyses of possible CM biological predictors.