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J Immunol. 2013 Dec 15;191(12):5848-57. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1300771. Epub 2013 Nov 13.

The kinetics of myelin antigen uptake by myeloid cells in the central nervous system during experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78249.


Induction of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in susceptible animals requires reactivation of encephalitogenic CD4(+) T cells by APCs in the CNS. However, it has remained unresolved from where APCs in the CNS acquire myelin Ag for T cell activation and under which conditions, that is, whether only during EAE or also in the naive CNS. In this study, we investigated the kinetics of myelin Ag uptake by CNS APCs during EAE and in the naive CNS. Our results show that during EAE CX3CR1(+)CD11b(+) microglia were the first APCs in the CNS to contain myelin Ag upon induction of disease, albeit in very small numbers. Dendritic cells (DCs) arrived in the CNS in sizable numbers significantly later (day 5 postimmunization), without detectable myelin Ag, but acquired it by day 7 postimmunization. Furthermore, a sharp increase in neuroantigen-containing DCs coincided with the onset of EAE symptoms. Importantly, in naive mice a low but consistent number of microglia contained myelin Ag, suggesting release by oligodendrocytes under steady state conditions. Although microglia isolated from naive brain and spinal cord did not elicit a strong CD4(+) T cell response in vitro, myelin Ag-containing microglia may still play a local role in modulating encephalitogenic CD4(+) T cell responses in early EAE prior to the arrival of other professional APCs, such as DCs. Finally, newly arriving DCs in the CNS not yet loaded with myelin Ag before the onset of EAE may be a potential therapeutic target.

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