Modulation of immune responses and suppression of experimental autoimmune myasthenia gravis by surgical denervation of the spleen

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Abstract

Summary

Critical interactions between the nervous system and the immune system during experimental autoimmune myasthenia gravis (EAMG) were examined in an animal model for human MG after immunization of adult female Lewis rats with Torpedo acetylcholine receptor (AChR) and complete Freund's adjuvant. Immunized rats depicted marked clinical severity of the disease. Using enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay and in situ hybridization techniques, immune responses in these animals were examined and showed elevated numbers of anti-AChR IgG secreting B cells and AChR reactive interferon (IFN)-γ-secreting cells, enhanced mRNA expression of the proinflammatory cytokines IFN-γ and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α as Th1 subset and the anti-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-10 as a Th2 subset, and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β as a Th3 cytokine. Corticosterone and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) levels were measured by radioimmunoassay and illustrated increased production after immunization. Surgical denervation of the spleen reduced significantly the clinical severity of the disease, suppressed the numbers of IgG and IFN-γ-secreting cells, down-regulated the mRNA expression for cytokines and reduced corticosterone and PGE2 production. As controls, sham-operated rats were used and showed results as the EAMG non-denervated control rats. The data present herein, and for the first time, substantial effects of the nervous system on immune responses that may influence the outcome of EAMG. These effects were not dependent on cytokine inhibitory mediators such as prostaglandins or stress hormones. IL-10 and TGF-β, the two potent immunosuppressive cytokines, were also suppressed, indicating a general suppression by splenic denervation. More investigations are initiated at our laboratories to understand the evident neural control over the immune system during challenges leading to the break of tolerance and development of autoimmunity, which may assist in innovative therapeutic approaches.

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