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18-glycyrrhetinic acid suppresses experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis through inhibition of microglia activation and promotion of remyelination

Zhou, J;Cai, W;Jin, M;Xu, J;Wang, Y;Xiao, Y;Hao, L;Wang, B;Zhang, Y;Han, J;Huang, R;

Microglia are intrinsic immune cells in the central nervous system (CNS). The under controlled microglia activation plays important roles in inflammatory demyelination diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). However, the means to modulate microglia activation as a therapeutic modality and the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. Here we show that administration of 18-glycyrrhetinic acid (GRA), by using both preventive and therapeutic treatment protocols, significantly suppresses disease severity of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in C57BL/6 mice. The treatment effect of GRA on EAE is attributed to its regulatory effect on microglia. GRA-modulated microglia significantly decreased pro-inflammatory profile in the CNS through suppression of MAPK signal pathway. The ameliorated CNS pro-inflammatory profile prevented the recruitment of encephalitogenic T cells into the CNS, which alleviated inflammation-induced demyelination. In addition, GRA treatment promoted remyelination in the CNS of EAE mice. The induced remyelination can be mediated by the overcome of inflammation-induced blockade of brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression in microglia, as well as enhancing oligodendrocyte precursor cell proliferation. Collectively, our results demonstrate that GRA-modulated microglia suppresses EAE through inhibiting microglia activation-mediated CNS inflammation, and promoting neuroprotective effect of microglia, which represents a potential therapeutic strategy for MS and maybe other neuroinflammatory diseases associated with microglia activation.