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ACKR3 Antagonism Enhances the Repair of Demyelinated Lesions Through Both Immunomodulatory and Remyelinating Effects

Pouzol, L;Sassi, A;Tunis, M;Zurbach, A;Baumlin, N;Gnerre, C;Strasser, DS;Marrie, J;Vezzali, E;Martinic, MM;

Addressing inflammation, demyelination, and associated neurodegeneration in inflammatory demyelinating diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS) remains challenging. ACT-1004-1239, a first-in-class and potent ACKR3 antagonist, currently undergoing clinical development, showed promise in preclinical MS models, reducing neuroinflammation and demyelination. However, its effectiveness in treating established disease and impact on remyelination after the occurrence of demyelinated lesions remain unexplored. This study assessed the therapeutic effect of ACT-1004-1239 in two demyelinating disease models. In the proteolipid protein (PLP)-induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model, ACT-1004-1239 administered upon the detection of the first signs of paralysis, resulted in a dose-dependent reduction in EAE disease severity, concomitant with diminished immune cell infiltrates in the CNS and reduced demyelination. Notably, efficacy correlated with elevated plasma concentrations of CXCL11 and CXCL12, two pharmacodynamic biomarkers of ACKR3 antagonism. Combining ACT-1004-1239 with siponimod, an approved immunomodulatory treatment for MS, synergistically reduced EAE severity. In the cuprizone-induced demyelination model, ACT-1004-1239 administered after 5 weeks of cuprizone exposure, significantly accelerated remyelination, already quantifiable one week after cuprizone withdrawal. Additionally, ACT-1004-1239 penetrated the CNS, elevating brain CXCL12 concentrations. These results demonstrate that ACKR3 antagonism significantly reduces the severity of experimental demyelinating diseases, even when treatment is initiated therapeutically, after the occurrence of lesions. It confirms the dual mode of action of ACT-1004-1239, exhibiting both immunomodulatory effects by reducing neuroinflammation and promyelinating effects by accelerating myelin repair. The results further strengthen the rationale for evaluating ACT-1004-1239 in clinical trials for patients with demyelinating diseases.