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rTMS ameliorates depression/anxiety-like behaviors in experimental autoimmune encephalitis by inhibiting neurotoxic reactive astrocytes

Yu, C;Ruan, Y;Sun, X;Chen, C;Shen, T;Liu, C;Qiu, W;Lu, Z;Chan, SO;Wang, L;

One third of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) suffered from depressive symptoms. The pathogenesis of depression in MS patients has been related to innate immune activation in certain regions of the brain such as hippocampus. However, pharmacotherapy lacks sufficient evidence for beneficial effects on depression in MS patients, urging for a novel treatment modality for this mental disorder. Treatment effects of rTMS on depression/anxiety-like behaviors in mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) were assessed by behavioral tests. The role of innate immune response was examined by RNA sequencing, quantitative RT-PCR, and immunofluorescence techniques. Depressive symptom severity and astroglial activation in patients with MS were assessed by Beck Depression Inventory and serum glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), respectively. EAE mice displayed depression/anxiety-like behaviors, which were ameliorated by rTMS. Transcriptome and gene-specific expression analysis of the hippocampus showed significant reduction in transcript levels associated with neurotoxic reactive astrocytes in EAE mice after rTMS treatment. This was confirmed by immunofluorescence studies. Complement component 3d, a marker of neurotoxic reactive astrocytes, was highly expressed in EAE hippocampus, but was reduced to a basal level after rTMS treatment. In patients with MS, astroglial activation, indicated by serum GFAP levels, was significantly elevated in those with moderate or major depressive symptoms. These findings support that the suppression of neurotoxic reactive astrocytes might be a potential target for treatment of depression in patients with MS, and suggest the potential of using rTMS as a potential therapeutic treatment for this disorder.