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Acta Neuropathol. 2014 Aug;128(2):215-29. doi: 10.1007/s00401-014-1317-8. Epub 2014 Jul 5.

Demyelination during multiple sclerosis is associated with combined activation of microglia/macrophages by IFN-γ and alpha B-crystallin.

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  • 1Delta Crystallon, Zernikedreef 9, 2333, CK Leiden, The Netherlands.


Activated microglia and macrophages play a key role in driving demyelination during multiple sclerosis (MS), but the factors responsible for their activation remain poorly understood. Here, we present evidence for a dual-trigger role of IFN-γ and alpha B-crystallin (HSPB5) in this context. In MS-affected brain tissue, accumulation of the molecular chaperone HSPB5 by stressed oligodendrocytes is a frequent event. We have shown before that this triggers a TLR2-mediated protective response in surrounding microglia, the molecular signature of which is widespread in normal-appearing brain tissue during MS. Here, we show that IFN-γ, which can be released by infiltrated T cells, changes the protective response of microglia and macrophages to HSPB5 into a robust pro-inflammatory classical response. Exposure of cultured microglia and macrophages to IFN-γ abrogated subsequent IL-10 induction by HSPB5, and strongly promoted HSPB5-triggered release of TNF-α, IL-6, IL-12, IL-1β and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. In addition, high levels of CXCL9, CXCL10, CXL11, several guanylate-binding proteins and the ubiquitin-like protein FAT10 were induced by combined activation with IFN-γ and HSPB5. As immunohistochemical markers for microglia and macrophages exposed to both IFN-γ and HSPB5, these latter factors were found to be selectively expressed in inflammatory infiltrates in areas of demyelination during MS. In contrast, they were absent from activated microglia in normal-appearing brain tissue. Together, our data suggest that inflammatory demyelination during MS is selectively associated with IFN-γ-induced re-programming of an otherwise protective response of microglia and macrophages to the endogenous TLR2 agonist HSPB5.

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