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Arsenic trioxide ameliorates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in C57BL/6 mice by inducing CD4+ T cell apoptosis

An, K;Xue, MJ;Zhong, JY;Yu, SN;Lan, TS;Qi, ZQ;Xia, JJ;

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated disease of the central nervous system characterized by severe white matter demyelination. Because of its complex pathogenesis, there is no definite cure for MS. Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) is an ideal animal model for the study of MS. Arsenic trioxide (ATO) is an ancient Chinese medicine used for its therapeutic properties with several autoimmune diseases. It is also used to inhibit acute immune rejection due to its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. However, it is unclear whether ATO has a therapeutic effect on EAE, and the underlying mechanisms have not yet been clearly elucidated. In this study, we attempted to assess whether ATO could be used to ameliorate EAE in mice. ATO (0.5mg/kg/day) was administered intraperitoneally to EAE mice 10 days post-immunization for 8 days. On day 22 post-immunization, the spinal cord, spleen, and blood were collected to analyze demyelination, inflammation, microglia activation, and the proportion of CD4+ T cells. In vitro, for mechanistic studies, CD4+ T cells were sorted from the spleen of nave C57BL/6 mice and treated with ATO and then used for an apoptosis assay, JC-1 staining, imaging under a transmission electron microscope, and western blotting. ATO delayed the onset of EAE and alleviated the severity of EAE in mice. Treatment with ATO also attenuated demyelination, alleviated inflammation, reduced microglia activation, and decreased the expression levels of IL-2, IFN-, IL-1, IL-6, and TNF- in EAE mice. Moreover, the number and proportion of CD4+ T cells in the spinal cord, spleen, and peripheral blood were reduced in ATO-treated EAE mice. Finally, ATO induced CD4+ T cell apoptosis via the mitochondrial pathway both in vitro and in vivo. Additionally, the administration of ATO had no adverse effect on the heart, liver, or kidney function, nor did it induce apoptosis in the spinal cord. Overall, our findings indicated that ATO plays a protective role in the initiation and progression of EAE and has the potential to be a novel drug in the treatment of MS.