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Trends Neurosci. 2002 Jun;25(6):313-9.

Cytotoxic T lymphocytes in autoimmune and degenerative CNS diseases.

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  • 1Neuroimmunology Unit, European Neuroscience Institute Göttingen, Waldweg 33, 37073 Göttingen, Germany.


Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) with a CD8(+) phenotype have the potential to recognize and attack major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I-expressing brain cells. Most brain cells, including neurons, can be stimulated to present peptides to CD8(+) CTLs by MHC class I molecules, and are susceptible to CTL-mediated cytotoxicity in culture. In disease-affected brain parenchyma, CD8(+) CTLs outnumber other T-cell subtypes. They show clonal expansion in several inflammatory and degenerative CNS diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), virus-induced inflammatory brain diseases and paraneoplastic neurological disorders. In MS, damage of axons is closely linked to the CD8(+) CTLs, and protection against CTL-mediated damage should be considered as a new therapeutic approach in MS and other neuroinflammatory diseases.

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