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Neurons promote encephalitogenic CD4+ lymphocyte infiltration in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis

Nakazato, Y;Fujita, Y;Nakazato, M;Yamashita, T;

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system characterized by neuroinflammation, leading to demyelination and axonal degeneration. Neuronal excitotoxity mediated by Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) results in neuronal damage in experimental autoimmune encephalitis (EAE), an animal model of MS. Here, we define a critical role of excitatory neurons in the pathogenesis of CD4+ lymphocyte accumulation in EAE. We silenced the activity of excitatory neurons in a mouse model of targeted EAE using inhibitory designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADD) under a CaMKII promoter. Neuronal silencing mitigated clinical disease scores in EAE, reduced the expression of c-fos, Tnf, Ccl2, and Ccr2 mRNAs in targeted EAE lesions, and prevented the migration of CD4+ lymphocytes towards neurons. Ccl2 shRNA treatment of targeted EAE suppressed the migration of CD4+ lymphocytes and alleviated the motor deficits of EAE. Our findings indicate that neuronal activation in EAE promotes the migration of CCR2+ CD4+ lymphocytes and that neuronal silencing with an inhibitory DREADD alleviates clinical and molecular markers of disease. Neuronal CCL2 is thought to be involved in promoting lymphocytes migration.