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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Feb 18;111(7):2806-11. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1307091111. Epub 2014 Feb 3.

XY sex chromosome complement, compared with XX, in the CNS confers greater neurodegeneration during experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

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  • 1UCLA Multiple Sclerosis Program, Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, Brain Research Institute, and Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095.


Women are more susceptible to multiple sclerosis (MS) and have more robust immune responses than men. However, men with MS tend to demonstrate a more progressive disease course than women, suggesting a disconnect between the severity of an immune attack and the CNS response to a given immune attack. We have previously shown in an MS model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, that autoantigen-sensitized XX lymph node cells, compared with XY, are more encephalitogenic. These studies demonstrated an effect of sex chromosomes in the induction of immune responses, but did not address a potential role of sex chromosomes in the CNS response to immune-mediated injury. Here, we examined this possibility using XX versus XY bone marrow chimeras reconstituted with a common immune system of one sex chromosomal type. We found that experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis mice with an XY sex chromosome complement in the CNS, compared with XX, demonstrated greater clinical disease severity with more neuropathology in the spinal cord, cerebellum, and cerebral cortex. A candidate gene on the X chromosome, toll-like receptor 7, was then examined. Toll-like receptor 7 expression in cortical neurons was higher in mice with XY compared with mice with XX CNS, consistent with the known neurodegenerative role for toll-like receptor 7 in neurons. These results suggest that sex chromosome effects on neurodegeneration in the CNS run counter to effects on immune responses, and may bear relevance to the clinical enigma of greater MS susceptibility in women but faster disability progression in men. This is a demonstration of a direct effect of sex chromosome complement on neurodegeneration in a neurological disease.


Tlr7; XY genes; sex differences

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