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J Autoimmun. 2012 Feb;38(1):10-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2011.11.006. Epub 2011 Nov 26.

CX(3)CR1 drives cytotoxic CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells into the brain of multiple sclerosis patients.

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  • 1Hasselt University, Biomedical Research Institute and transnationale Universiteit Limburg, School of Life Sciences, Agoralaan, Building C, 3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium.


Immunosenescence, or ageing of the immune system, contributes to the increased morbidity and mortality seen in the elderly population. Premature immunosenescence is shown to occur in a subgroup of patients with autoimmune diseases. One of the main characteristics of immunosenescence is the expansion of CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells in the blood. In this study, we investigate the potential contribution of these cells to disease processes in a subgroup of multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. Characterization of CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells in patients and healthy controls reveals that they have an inflammation-seeking effector-memory T cell phenotype with cytotoxic properties, as they expel cytotoxic granules in response to a polyclonal stimulus or MS-related autoantigens. We identify CX(3)CR1, the fractalkine receptor, as a selective marker to discriminate CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells from their CD4(+)CD28(+) counterparts. CX(3)CR1 expression enables CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells to migrate towards a fractalkine gradient in vitro. In addition, we find increased levels of fractalkine in the cerebrospinal fluid and inflammatory lesions of MS patients. We demonstrate for the first time that CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells accumulate in MS lesions of a subgroup of patients. Moreover, we have indications that these cells are cytotoxic in the target tissue. Overall, our findings suggest that CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells migrate in response to a chemotactic gradient of fractalkine to sites of inflammation, where they contribute to the inflammatory processes in a subgroup of patients with MS and RA.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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