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J Neuroimmunol. 1998 Nov 2;91(1-2):1-9.

Cytokine secretion of myelin basic protein reactive T cells in patients with multiple sclerosis.

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Center for Neurologic Diseases, Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115-5817, USA.


The objective of this study was to determine whether autoreactive T cells in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) are polarized and committed in their differentiation to a stable cytokine phenotype or whether the cytokine secretion can be altered. We examined the cytokines secreted by myelin basic protein (MBP) as compared to tetanus toxoid-reactive (TT) T cells in 12 patients with relapsing remitting MS (RR-MS), 9 patients with chronic progressive MS (CP-MS), and 14 normal individuals. A total of 5094 short term T cell lines to MBP and TT were generated in the presence of growth conditions promoting Th1 (IL-12/alpha-IL-4 mAb) or Th2 (IL-4/alpha-IL-12 mAb) cytokine secretion. Antigen-specific cytokine secretion from normals and MS patients could be shifted to a Th1 or Th2 type phenotype depending upon culture conditions, indicating that the phenotype of MBP reactive T cells can be altered even in longstanding chronic progressive MS. There were no significant differences in the cytokine patterns secreted by MBP reactive T cells in patients with MS as compared to normal individuals. However, CP-MS patients tended to have fewer MBP reactive T cells secreting IL-4 when cultured with IL-12/anti-IL-4 mAb and more IFN-gamma secreting MBP reactive T cells when cultured with IL-4/anti-IL-12 mAb as compared to both normal controls and RR-MS, suggesting that cells from these patients might be more polarized or that fewer undifferentiated MBP-reactive cells are present in these individuals. The most striking observation was that in contrast to the RR-MS patients and normal controls, almost none of the MBP reactive T cells secreting cytokines in CP-MS incorporated 3[H]thymidine. This may be due to chronic in vivo stimulation in the presence of IL-12, or because these T cells may have entered a terminally differentiated state. Nonetheless, the ability to alter the cytokine secretion of autoreactive T cell lines even in longstanding autoimmune disease indicates that cytokine therapy might have therapeutic benefits by switching the function of myelin reactive T cells such that they are non-pathogenic.

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