Dimethyl fumarate–induced lymphopenia in MS due to differential T-cell subset apoptosis

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Abstract

Objective:

To examine the mechanism underlying the preferential CD8+ vs CD4+ T-cell lymphopenia induced by dimethyl fumarate (DMF) treatment of MS.

Methods:

Total lymphocyte counts and comprehensive T-cell subset analyses were performed in high-quality samples obtained from patients with MS prior to and serially following DMF treatment initiation. Random coefficient mixed-effects analysis was used to model the trajectory of T-cell subset losses in vivo. Survival and apoptosis of distinct T-cell subsets were assessed following in vitro exposure to DMF.

Results:

Best-fit modeling indicated that the DMF-induced preferential reductions in CD8+ vs CD4+ T-cell counts nonetheless followed similar depletion kinetics, suggesting a similar rather than distinct mechanism involved in losses of both the CD8+ and CD4+ T cells. In vitro, DMF exposure resulted in dose-dependent reductions in T-cell survival, which were found to reflect apoptotic cell death. This DMF-induced apoptosis was greater for CD8+ vs CD4+, as well as for memory vs naive, and conventional vs regulatory T-cell subsets, a pattern which mirrored preferential T-cell subset losses that we observed during in vivo treatment of patients.

Conclusions:

Differential apoptosis mediated by DMF may underlie the preferential lymphopenia of distinct T-cell subsets, including CD8+ and memory T-cell subsets, seen in treated patients with MS. This differential susceptibility of distinct T-cell subsets to DMF-induced apoptosis may contribute to both the safety and efficacy profiles of DMF in patients with MS.

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