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Treg cell resistance to apoptosis in DNA vaccination for experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis treatment

Kang, Y;Sun, Y;Zhang, J;Gao, W;Kang, J;Wang, Y;Wang, B;Xia, G;

Regulatory T (Treg) cells can be induced with DNA vaccinations and protect mice from the development of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS). Tacrolimus (FK506) has been shown to have functions on inducing immunosuppression and augmenting apoptosis of pathologic T cells in autoimmune disease. Here we examined the therapeutic effect of DNA vaccine in conjunction with FK506 on EAE. After EAE induction, C57BL/6 mice were treated with DNA vaccine in conjunction with FK506. Functional Treg cells were induced in treated EAE mice and suppressed Th1 and Th17 cell responses. Infiltrated CD4 T cells were reduced while Treg cells were induced in spinal cords of treated EAE mice. Remarkably, the activated CD4 T cells augmented apoptosis, but the induced Treg cells resisted apoptosis in treated EAE mice, resulting in alleviation of clinical EAE severity. DNA vaccine in conjunction with FK506 treatment ameliorates EAE by enhancing apoptosis of CD4 T cells and resisting apoptosis of induced Treg cells. Our findings implicate the potential of tolerogenic DNA vaccines for treating MS.