Positive feedback loop via astrocytes causes chronic inflammation in virus-associated myelopathy

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Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) is a rare neurodegenerative disease characterized by chronic inflammation in the spinal cord. We hypothesized that a positive feedback loop driven by chemokines may be responsible for the chronic inflammation in HAM/TSP. We aimed to determine the identity of these chemokines, where they are produced, and how they drive chronic inflammation in HAM/TSP. We found that patients with HAM/TSP have extraordinarily high levels of the chemokine CXCL10 (also known as IP-10) and an abundance of cells expressing the CXCL10-binding receptor CXCR3 in the cerebrospinal fluid. Histological analysis revealed that astrocytes are the main producers of CXCL10 in the spinal cords of patients with HAM/TSP. Co-culture of human astrocytoma cells with CD4+ T cells from patients with HAM/TSP revealed that astrocytes produce CXCL10 in response to IFN-γ secreted by CD4+ T cells. Chemotaxis assays results suggest that CXCL10 induces migration of peripheral blood mononuclear cells to the central nervous system and that anti-CXCL10 neutralizing antibody can disrupt this migration. In short, we inferred that human T-lymphotropic virus type 1-infected cells in the central nervous system produce IFN-γ that induces astrocytes to secrete CXCL10, which recruits more infected cells to the area via CXCR3, constituting a T helper type 1-centric positive feedback loop that results in chronic inflammation.

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