Investigating the role of T-bet in CD4+ T cell driven central nervous system autoimmunity
Cambrook, Helen Elizabeth
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Self-reactive CD4+ helper T cells (Th) are key causal agents in the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases. Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) is a CD4+T cell model of the demyelinating autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS). It has been shown that EAE is caused by CD4+ T-cells that produce pro-inflammatory cytokines IFN-γ (Th1) and IL-17 (Th17). As such, understanding how these Th cells are generated and controlled is essential. There is debate as to whether Th1 and Th17 cells act independently in EAE or if there is plasticity between these two subtypes, and whether the capacity to switch from Th1 to Th17 confers pathogenic capacity. T-bet was first described as the master transcription factor for Th1 cells, and is thought to have a critical role in EAE even though IFN-γ, the Th1 archetypal cytokine, has been shown to be redundant. More recent work has shown that T-bet is expressed in multiple immune cell types, and it remains unclear in what cells the expression of T-bet is required for EAE. Considerable efforts have been put into understanding the role of T-bet in EAE pathogenesis, with a view to modulate cells expressing T-bet for therapy. The hypothesis of this work was that T-bet has multifaceted roles in EAE, in initiating and directing an immune response in innate antigen presenting cells such as dendritic cells (DC) as well as programming pathogenic effector CD4+ T cell (Teff) response to antigen. T-bet-/- mice were studied using different models of EAE to dissect the role of T-bet in disease pathogenesis. Active immunisation of C57BL/6 mice with the immunodominant peptide from myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG35-55) showed that T-bet-/- mice developed EAE with an IL-17 dominated profile and critically, T-bet-/- mice were able to produce GM-CSF which has recently been described as a key cytokine for EAE. T-bet-/- cells were not able to transfer EAE in a model of passive transfer EAE, where CD4+ T cells were polarised towards a Th1 profile in vitro. Illustrating that T-bet is required in CD4+ T cells for Th1 mediated EAE. DC driven EAE showed that T-bet-/- DC were able to activate CD4+ T cells in vitro and cause EAE upon co-transfer into host mice with transgenic CD4+ T cells. Thus, it has been shown that T-bet is not required in EAE. This work represents a step further towards understanding the disease mechanisms involved in EAE and suggests T-bet is not an appropriate therapeutic target for the treatment of MS.