Novel therapeutic for multiple sclerosis protects white matter function in EAE mouse model
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic demyelinating disease with prominent axon dysfunction. Our previous studies in an MS mouse model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), demonstrated that major histocompatibility complex Class II constructs can reverse clinical signs of EAE. These constructs block binding and downstream signaling of macrophage migration inhibitory factors (MIF-1/2) through CD74, thereby inhibiting phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activation and tissue inflammation and promoting remyelination. To directly assess the effects of a novel third generation construct, DRhQ, on axon integrity in EAE, we compared axon conduction properties using electrophysiology on corpus callosum slices and optic nerves. By using two distinct white matter (WM) tracts, we aimed to assess the impact of the EAE and the benefit of DRhQ on myelinated and unmyelinated axons as well as to test the clinical value of DRhQ on demyelinating lesions in CC and optic myelitis. Our study found that EAE altered axon excitability, delayed axon conduction and slowed spatiotemporal summation correlated with diffuse astrocyte and microglia activation. Because MS predisposes patients to stroke, we also investigated and showed that vulnerability to WM ischemia is increased in the EAE MS mouse model. Treatment with DRhQ after the onset of EAE drastically inhibited microglial and astrocyte activation, improved functional integrity of the myelinated axons and enhanced recovery after ischemia. These results demonstrate that DRhQ administered after the onset of EAE promotes WM integrity and function, and reduces subsequent vulnerability to ischemic injury, suggesting important therapeutic potential for treatment of progressive MS.