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Teriflunomide Promotes Blood-Brain Barrier Integrity by Upregulating Claudin-1 via the Wnt/?-catenin Signaling Pathway in Multiple Sclerosis

Zhao, Y;Chen, C;Xiao, X;Fang, L;Cheng, X;Chang, Y;Peng, F;Wang, J;Shen, S;Wu, S;Huang, Y;Cai, W;Zhou, L;Qiu, W;

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) and tight junction (TJ) proteins maintain the homeostasis of the central nervous system (CNS). The dysfunction of BBB allows peripheral T cells infiltration into CNS and contributes to the pathophysiology of multiple sclerosis (MS). Teriflunomide is an approved drug for the treatment of MS by suppressing lymphocytes proliferation. However, whether teriflunomide has a protective effect on BBB in MS is not understood. We found that teriflunomide restored the injured BBB in the EAE model. Furthermore, teriflunomide treatment over 6 months improved BBB permeability and reduced peripheral leakage of CNS proteins in MS patients. Teriflunomide increased human brain microvascular endothelial cell (HBMEC) viability and promoted BBB integrity in an in vitro cell model. The TJ protein claudin-1 was upregulated by teriflunomide and responsible for the protective effect on BBB. Furthermore, RNA sequencing revealed that the Wnt signaling pathway was affected by teriflunomide. The activation of Wnt signaling pathway increased claudin-1 expression and reduced BBB damage in cell model and EAE rats. Our study demonstrated that teriflunomide upregulated the expression of the tight junction protein claudin-1 in endothelial cells and promoted the integrity of BBB through Wnt signaling pathway.