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Open Access Research

Production of IL-16 correlates with CD4+ Th1 inflammation and phosphorylation of axonal cytoskeleton in multiple sclerosis lesions

Dusanka S Skundric12*, Juan Cai1, William W Cruikshank3 and Djordje Gveric4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI 48201, USA

2 Department of Immunology and Microbiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI 48201, USA

3 Pulmonary Center Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA

4 Department of Neuroinflammation, Institute of Neurology, University College London WC1N 1PJ, UK

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2006, 3:13  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-3-13

Published: 26 May 2006

Abstract

Background

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a central nervous system-specific autoimmune, demyelinating and neurodegenerative disease. Infiltration of lesions by autoaggressive, myelin-specific CD4+Th1 cells correlates with clinical manifestations of disease. The cytokine IL-16 is a CD4+ T cell-specific chemoattractant that is biased towards CD4+ Th1 cells. IL-16 precursor is constitutively expressed in lymphocytes and during CD4+ T cell activation; active caspase-3 cleaves and releases C-terminal bioactive IL-16. Previously, we used an animal model of MS to demonstrate an important role for IL-16 in regulation of autoimmune inflammation and subsequent axonal damage. This role of IL-16 in MS is largely unexplored. Here we examine the regulation of IL-16 in relation to CD4+ Th1 infiltration and inflammation-related changes of axonal cytoskeleton in MS lesions.

Methods

We measured relative levels of IL-16, active caspase-3, T-bet, Stat-1 (Tyr 701), and phosphorylated NF(M+H), in brain and spinal cord lesions from MS autopsies, using western blot analysis. We examined samples from 39 MS cases, which included acute, subacute and chronic lesions, as well as adjacent, normal-appearing white and grey matter. All samples were taken from patients with relapsing remitting clinical disease. We employed two-color immunostaining and confocal microscopy to identify phenotypes of IL-16-containing cells in frozen tissue sections from MS lesions.

Results

We found markedly increased levels of pro- and secreted IL-16 (80 kD and 22 kD, respectively) in MS lesions compared to controls. Levels of IL-16 peaked in acute, diminished in subacute, and were elevated again in chronic active lesions. Compared to lesions, lower but still appreciable IL-6 levels were measured in normal-appearing white matter adjacent to active lesions. Levels of IL-16 corresponded to increases in active-caspase-3, T-bet and phosphorylated Stat-1. In MS lesions, we readily observed IL-16 immunoreactivity confined to infiltrating CD3+, T-bet+ and active caspase-3+ mononuclear cells.

Conclusion

We present evidence suggesting that IL-16 production occurs in MS lesions. We show correlations between increased levels of secreted IL-16, CD4+ Th1 cell inflammation, and phosphorylation of axonal cytoskeleton in MS lesions. Overall, the data suggest a possible role for IL-16 in regulation of inflammation and of subsequent changes in the axonal cytoskeleton in MS.