Comparison of multiplex platforms for cytokine assessments and their potential use for biomarker profiling in multiple sclerosis

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The levels of pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines can be altered in different autoimmune pathologies, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). It is likely that cytokines in bodily fluids can provide a good reflection of ongoing disease patho-physiology. In this study we aimed to validate multiplex cytokine platforms and evaluate whether these cytokines are differentially expressed in MS.


Assay validation for simultaneous quantification of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-α in serum and CSF were performed using both the Luminex-xMAP (Luminex) and Meso Scale Discovery (MSD) platforms. Next, the relation of the pro-inflammatory cytokine 4-plex with disease progression, symptoms and subtypes was studied in paired serum and CSF of MS patients (n = 56), and compared with healthy controls (n = 203), with the use of the MSD-platform.


The MSD-platform showed overall better assay characteristics such as, sensitivity, recovery and linearity compared to the Luminex for the 4-plex cytokines in CSF and serum. IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-α (p < 0.001) levels were significantly increased in MS serum compared to healthy controls. Moreover, serum IL-1β levels correlated with expanded disability status scale (EDSS) scores (r = −0.34, p < 0.05). Additionally, IL-6 and IL-8 CSF levels were both significantly decreased in MS patients compared to non-inflammatory neurological disease controls. Noteworthy, higher IL-8 CSF levels than IL-8 serum levels were observed for MS patients, indicating intrathecal activation of macrophages in MS.


We have demonstrated that the pro-inflammatory 4-plex kit of the MSD-platform shows better assay characteristics in comparison with Luminex kit for quantification of these cytokines in serum and CSF. Overall, the increased levels of IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-α in serum of MS patients compared to healthy controls, support the use of multiple cytokines for future MS biomarker and disease progression research.

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