Silencing c-Rel in macrophages dampens Th1 and Th17 immune responses and alleviates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in mice

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Autoimmune Th1 and Th17 responses are critical for the development of central nervous system (CNS) pathology in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model for human multiple sclerosis. Although macrophages play important roles in the development of Th1 and Th17 responses, whether modulating macrophage gene transcription can diminish the Th1- and Th17 cell-induced CNS pathology is unclear. In this study, we successfully silenced the expression of the transcription factor c-Rel in macrophages of mice with EAE (including those infiltrating the CNS) using chemically modified c-Rel-specific siRNAs delivered by nanoparticles. Knocking down c-Rel in macrophagesin vitroinhibited expression of NF-κB targets, such as pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin 1β (IL-1β) and p40 of interleukin 12 (IL-12)/interleukin 23 (IL-23), in macrophages, leading to reduced interferon γ (IFN-γ) and interleukin 17A (IL-17A) production by co-cultured MOG-specific T cells from EAE mice. Such effects correlated with diminished T-cell infiltration in the CNS, reduced clinical symptoms, as well as downregulated pathogenic Th1 and Th17 responses in EAE mice. Taken together, our findings indicate that targeting c-Rel in macrophages dampens CNS-specific Th1 and Th17 immune responses, and can be effective for treating autoimmune diseases of the CNS.

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