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Clin Immunol. 2003 Mar;106(3):163-74.

In vitro evidence that subcutaneous administration of glatiramer acetate induces hyporesponsive T cells in patients with multiple sclerosis.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, Center for Neurologic Diseases, Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Glatiramer acetate (GA; Copaxone) is a random sequence polypeptide used in the treatment of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RR MS). We have recently demonstrated that prior to treatment, GA induces proliferation of resting T cells and is not cross-reactive with myelin antigens. Daily GA injections induce a significant loss of this GA responsiveness, which is associated with the induction of highly cross-reactive Th2-type T cells potentially capable of suppressing inflammatory responses. The mechanism of action by which GA induces T cell nonresponsiveness leading to T cell receptor degeneracy in patients with RR MS is unknown. Here, we examined the effects of daily GA administration on the induction of T cell hyporesponsiveness. The frequency of GA-reactive T cells in peripheral blood of seven patients with RR MS was measured by limiting dilution analysis prior to and during 6 months of treatment. In addition, a model in which GA-reactive T cells were stimulated in vitro was developed to better characterize the selection of T cell populations over time. In vivo treatment with GA induced a decrease in GA-reactive T cell frequencies and hyporesponsiveness of CD4(+) T cell reactivity to GA in vitro that was only partially reversed by the addition of IL-2. These data suggest that T cell peripheral tolerance to GA was achieved in vivo during treatment. Thus, our in vitro data suggest that the underlying changes in GA-reactive CD4(+) T cell reactivity could be explained by the induction of T cell anergy and clonal elimination.

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