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Autoimmunity. 2011 Sep;44(6):465-70. doi: 10.3109/08916934.2011.571223. Epub 2011 May 23.

Oral GABA treatment downregulates inflammatory responses in a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis.

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Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1735, USA.


Current treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have long-term side effects such that new treatments are needed that can safely help manage the disease. There is a growing appreciation that GABA receptors (GABA-Rs) on immune cells provide new targets that can be used to modulate immune cell activity. Here, we show for the first time that activation of peripheral GABA-Rs can inhibit the development of disease in the collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) mouse model of RA. Mice that received oral GABA had a reduced incidence of CIA, and those mice that did develop CIA had milder symptoms. T cells from GABA-treated mice displayed reduced proliferative responses to collagen and their APC had a reduced ability to promote the proliferation of collagen-reactive T cells. Thus, GABA downregulated both T-cell autoimmunity and APC activity. Collagen-reactive T cells from GABA-treated mice displayed reduced recall responses in the presence of GABA ex vivo, indicating that GABA consumption did not desensitize these cells to GABA. GABA-treated mice had reduced collagen-reactive IgG2a, but not IgG1 antibodies, consistent with reduced Th1 help. The levels of serum anti-collagen IgG2a antibodies were correlated significantly with the CIA disease scores of individual mice. Our results suggest that activation of peripheral GABA-Rs may provide a new modality to modulate T cell, B cell, and APC activity and help ameliorate RA and other inflammatory diseases.

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