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Ivermectin Protects Against Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis in Mice by Modulating the Th17/Treg Balance Involved in the IL-2/STAT5 Pathway

Xie, Y;Jin, C;Sang, H;Liu, W;Wang, J;

Multiple sclerosis (MS), a T-cell-mediated autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS), is characterized by white matter demyelination, axon destruction, and oligodendrocyte degeneration. Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug, has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and antiviral properties. However, to date, there are no in-depth studies on the effect of ivermectin on the function effector of T cells in murine experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of MS. Here, we conducted in vitro experiments and found that ivermectin inhibited the proliferation of total T cells (CD3+) and their subsets (CD4+ and CD8+ T cells) as well as T cells secreting the pro-inflammatory cytokines IFN-γ and IL-17A; ivermectin also increased IL-2 production and IL-2Rα (CD25) expression, which was accompanied by an increase in the frequency of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Treg). Importantly, ivermectin administration reduced the clinical symptoms of EAE mice by preventing the infiltration of inflammatory cells into the CNS. Additional mechanisms showed that ivermectin promoted Treg cells while inhibiting pro-inflammatory Th1 and Th17 cells and their IFN-γ and IL-17 secretion; ivermectin also upregulated IL-2 production from MOG35–55-stimulated peripheral lymphocytes. Finally, ivermectin decreased IFN-γ and IL-17A production and increased IL-2 level, CD25 expression, and STAT5 phosphorylation in the CNS. These results reveal a previously unknown etiopathophysiological mechanism by which ivermectin attenuates the pathogenesis of EAE, indicating that it may be a promising option for T-cell-mediated autoimmune diseases such as MS.