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Adv Immunol. 2008;98:121-49. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2776(08)00404-5.

B cells and autoantibodies in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis and related inflammatory demyelinating diseases.

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Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS). The mainstream view is that MS is caused by an autoimmune attack of the CNS myelin by myelin-specific CD4 T cells, and this perspective is supported by extensive work in the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model of MS as well as immunological and genetic studies in humans. However, it is important to keep in mind that other cell populations of the immune system are also essential in the complex series of events leading to MS, as exemplified by the profound clinical efficacy of B cell depletion with Rituximab. This review discusses the mechanisms by which B cells contribute to the pathogenesis of MS and dissects their role as antigen-presenting cells (APCs) to T cells with matching antigen specificity, the production of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, as well as the secretion of autoantibodies that target structures on the myelin sheath and the axon. Mechanistic dissection of the interplay between T cells and B cells in MS may permit the development of B cell based therapies that do not require depletion of this important cell population.

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