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Defective autophagy is associated with neuronal injury in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis

Xuedan Feng, Huiqing Hou, Yueli Zou, Li Guo


Neurodegeneration, along with inflammatory demyelination, is an important component of multiple sclerosis (MS) pathogenesis. Autophagy is known to play a pivotal role in neuronal homeostasis and is implicated in several neurodegenerative disorders. However, whether autophagy is involved in the mechanisms of neuronal damage during MS remains to be investigated. Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an in vivo model of MS, was induced in female C57BL/6 mice by immunization with myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein p35-55. After that, autophagic flux in the spinal cord of mice was evaluated by detection of LC3-II and Beclin1 protein expressions. EAE mice were then administered with rapamycin and 3-methyladenine (3-MA) for 10 days. Afterward, the changes in LC3-II, Beclin1, and p62 expression, number of infiltrated inflammatory cells, demyelinated lesion area, and neuronal damage, as well as clinical scores, were assessed. Further, apoptotic cell rate and apoptosis-related protein expressions were monitored. We observed an impaired autophagic flux and increased neuronal damage in the spinal cords of EAE mice. We also found that rapamycin, an autophagy inducer, mitigated EAE-induced autophagy decrease, inflammation, demyelination and neuronal injury, as well as the abnormal clinical score. In addition, rapamycin suppressed cell apoptosis, and decreased Bax/Bcl-2 ratio and cleaved caspase-3 expression. Conversely, the effect of autophagy inhibitor 3-MA on EAE mice resulted in completely opposite results. These results indicated that autophagy deficiency, at least in part, contributed to EAE-induced neuronal injury and that pharmacological modulation of autophagy might be a therapeutic strategy for MS.


Autophagy; experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; multiple sclerosis; neurodegeneration; apoptosis; EAE mice; LC3-II; Beclin1; rapamycin; 3-methyladenine; p62; autophagy deficiency

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