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International study: Excess dietary salt may drive the development of autoimmune diseases
Date:3/6/2013

observed changes in CD4 positive T helper cells (Th) in humans, which were associated with specific dietary habits. The question arose whether salt might drive these changes and thus can also have an impact on other immune cells. Helper T cells are alerted of imminent danger by the cytokines of other cells of the immune system. They activate and "help" other effector cells to fight dangerous pathogens and to clear infections. A specific subset of T helper cells produces the cytokine interleukin 17 and is therefore called Th17 for short. Evidence is mounting that Th17 cells, apart from fighting infections, play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases.

Salt dramatically boosts the induction of aggressive Th17 immune cells

In cell culture experiments the researchers showed that increased sodium chloride can lead to a dramatic induction of Th17 cells in a specific cytokine milieu. "In the presence of elevated salt concentrations this increase can be ten times higher than under usual conditions," Markus Kleinewietfeld and Dominik Mller explained. Under the new high salt conditions, the cells undergo further changes in their cytokine profile, resulting in particularly aggressive Th17 cells.

In mice, increased dietary salt intake resulted in a more severe form of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a model for multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system in which the body's own immune system destroys the insulating myelin sheath around the axons of neurons and thus prevents the transduction of signals, which can lead to a variety of neurological deficits and permanent disability. Recently, researchers postulated that autoreactive Th17 cells play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis.

Interestingly, according to the researchers, the number of pro-inflammatory Th17 cells in the nervous system of the mice increased dramatically under a high
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Contact: Bachtler, Barbara
bachtler@mdc-berlin.de
49-309-406-3896
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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