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J Immunol. 2009 Jul 1;183(1):298-309. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803576.

Early life exposure to lipopolysaccharide suppresses experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis by promoting tolerogenic dendritic cells and regulatory T cells.

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Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


The rising incidence of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) in developed countries might be due to a more hygienic environment, particularly during early life. To investigate this concept, we developed a model of neonatal exposure to a common pathogen-associated molecular pattern, LPS, and determined its impact on experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Mice exposed to LPS at 2 wk of age showed a delayed onset and diminished severity of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-induced EAE, induced at 12 wk, compared with vehicle-exposed animals. Spinal cord transcript levels of CD3epsilon and F4/80 were lower in LPS- compared with PBS-exposed EAE animals with increased IL-10 levels in the LPS-exposed group. Splenic CD11c(+) cells from LPS-exposed animals exhibited reduced MHC class II and CD83 expression but increased levels of CD80 and CD86 both before and during EAE. MOG-treated APC from LPS-exposed animals stimulated less T lymphocyte proliferation but increased expansion of CD4(+)FoxP3(+) T cells compared with APC from PBS-exposed animals. Neuropathological studies disclosed reduced myelin and axonal loss in spinal cords from LPS-exposed compared with PBS-exposed animals with EAE, and this neuroprotective effect was associated with an increased number of CD3(+)FoxP3(+) immunoreactive cells. Analyses of human brain tissue revealed that FoxP3 expression was detected in lymphocytes, albeit reduced in MS compared with non-MS patients' brains. These findings support the concept of early-life microbial exposure influencing the generation of neuroprotective regulatory T cells and may provide insights into new immunotherapeutic strategies for MS.

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