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IL-1 signal affects both protection and pathogenesis of virus-induced chronic CNS demyelinating disease

Byung S Kim1*, Young-Hee Jin1, Liping Meng1, Wanqiu Hou13, Hyun Seok Kang1, Hey Suk Park1 and Chang-Sung Koh2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology-Immunology, Northwestern University Medical School, 303 East Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL, 60611, USA

2 Biomedical Laboratory Sciences, Graduate School of Medicine, Shinshu University, Matsumoto, Nagano, 390-8621, Japan

3 Visiting Assistant Researcher at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2012, 9:217  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-9-217

Published: 17 September 2012



Theiler’s virus infection induces chronic demyelinating disease in mice and has been investigated as an infectious model for multiple sclerosis (MS). IL-1 plays an important role in the pathogenesis of both the autoimmune disease model (EAE) and this viral model for MS. However, IL-1 is known to play an important protective role against certain viral infections. Therefore, it is unclear whether IL-1-mediated signaling plays a protective or pathogenic role in the development of TMEV-induced demyelinating disease.


Female C57BL/6 mice and B6.129S7-Il1r1tm1Imx/J mice (IL-1R KO) were infected with Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus (1 x 106 PFU). Differences in the development of demyelinating disease and changes in the histopathology were compared. Viral persistence, cytokine production, and immune responses in the CNS of infected mice were analyzed using quantitative PCR, ELISA, and flow cytometry.


Administration of IL-1β, thereby rending resistant B6 mice susceptible to TMEV-induced demyelinating disease, induced a high level of Th17 response. Interestingly, infection of TMEV into IL-1R-deficient resistant C57BL/6 (B6) mice also induced TMEV-induced demyelinating disease. High viral persistence was found in the late stage of viral infection in IL-1R-deficient mice, although there were few differences in the initial anti-viral immune responses and viral persistent levels between the WT B6 and IL-1R-deficiecent mice. The initial type I IFN responses and the expression of PDL-1 and Tim-3 were higher in the CNS of TMEV-infected IL-1R-deficient mice, leading to deficiencies in T cell function that permit viral persistence.


These results suggest that the presence of high IL-1 level exerts the pathogenic role by elevating pathogenic Th17 responses, whereas the lack of IL-1 signals promotes viral persistence in the spinal cord due to insufficient T cell activation by elevating the production of inhibitory cytokines and regulatory molecules. Therefore, the balance of IL-1 signaling appears to be extremely important for the protection from TMEV-induced demyelinating disease, and either too much or too little signaling promotes the development of disease.

IL-1R; TMEV; Demyelination; CNS; T cell responses; IL-1; IL-1R KO mice; Th17