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Brain. 2000 Jul;123 ( Pt 7):1431-41.

T-cell apoptosis in situ in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis following methylprednisolone pulse therapy.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Clinical Research Group for Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology, University of Würzburg, Germany.


The apoptosis-inducing effects of i.v. methylprednisolone were investigated as a possible method of controlling inflammation in the CNS in adoptive transfer-experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (AT-EAE) in Lewis rats. Two pulses of methylprednisolone were given at the peak of mild and of severe disease. T-cell apoptosis was assessed on spinal cord cross-sections by morphology and TUNEL staining. Concentrations of methylprednisolone were measured in serum, CSF and spinal cord tissue by high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). In severe EAE, 10 mg/kg methylprednisolone increased T-cell apoptosis significantly and T-cell infiltration was marginally decreased. A maximal dose of 50 mg/kg methylprednisolone was superior in both respects and, in contrast to 10 mg/kg methylprednisolone, was also effective in mild EAE. A dose of 1 mg/kg methylprednisolone did not produce notable changes compared with controls treated with phosphate-buffered saline. Serum, CSF and spinal cord concentrations of methylprednisolone measured by HPLC 2 h after a single i.v. injection of 10 or 50 mg/kg methylprednisolone revealed significantly higher methylprednisolone concentrations in severe EAE compared with mild disease. With 50 mg/kg methylprednisolone, we obtained serum and CSF concentrations in the region of 10(-5) M methylprednisolone. We also studied the expression of bcl-2, a typical anti-apoptotic regulatory protein, in T cells, and found no change after methylprednisolone treatment compared with controls. Methylprednisolone did not induce apoptosis of oligodendrocytes, which would have been an unwanted side effect in CNS cells. This study provides evidence that methylprednisolone dose-dependently augments T-cell apoptosisin situ in AT-EAE. Our results may have implications for the use of glucocorticosteroids at very high doses in the treatment of inflammatory disorders of the CNS, such as multiple sclerosis, or of other target organs.

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