Paucity of natural killer and cytotoxic T cells in human neuromyelitis optica lesions

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Abstract

Neuromyelitis optica is a severe inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. Most patients with neuromyelitis optica have circulating immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies against the astrocytic water channel protein aquaporin-4 (AQP4), which are pathogenic. Anti-AQP4 IgG-mediated complement-dependent astrocyte toxicity is a key mechanism of central nervous system damage in neuromyelitis optica, but the role of natural killer and cytotoxic T cells is unknown. Our objective was to determine whether natural killer and cytotoxic T cells play a role in human neuromyelitis optica lesions. We immunostained four actively demyelinating lesions, obtained from patients with anti-AQP4 IgG positive neuromyelitis optica, for Granzyme B and Perforin. The inflammatory cells were perivascular neutrophils, eosinophils and macrophages, with only occasional Granzyme B+ or Perforin+ cells. Greater than 95% of inflamed vessels in each lesion had no surrounding Granzyme B+ or Perforin+ cells. Granzyme B+ or Perforin+ cells were abundant in human spleen (positive control). Although natural killer cells produce central nervous system damage in mice injected with anti-AQP4 IgG, our findings here indicate that natural killer-mediated and T cell-mediated cytotoxicity are probably not involved in central nervous system damage in human neuromyelitis optica.

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