For T cells to recognize proteins from a pathogen, a myelin sheath or any source, other cells must break the desired proteins into small pieces, called peptides, and then present the peptides in a specific molecular package to the T cells.
Scientists had previously determined which cells present pieces of a myelin protein to a type of T cell involved in the pathology of multiple sclerosis called a CD4+ T cell. Before the current study, no cells had yet been found that present myelin protein to CD8+ T cells.
Scientists strongly suspect that CD8+ T cells, whose job is to kill other cells, play an important role in the myelin-damage of multiple sclerosis. In experimental autoimmune encephalitis, which is an animal model of multiple sclerosis in humans, CD4+ T cells have a significant part in the inflammatory response. However, scientists observed that, in acute and chronic multiple sclerosis lesions, CD8+T cells actually outnumber CD4+ T cells and their numbers correlate with the extent of damage to nerve cell projections. Other studies suggest the opposite: that CD8+T cells may tone down the myelin attack.
The differing observations pointed to a conflicting role for CD8 + T cells in exacerbating or ameliorating episodes of multiple sclerosis. Still, how CD8+T cells actually contributed to regulating the autoimmune response in the central nervous system, for better or worse, was poorly understood.
Goverman and her team showed for the first time that naive CD8+ T cells were activated and turned into myelin-recognizing cells by special cells called Tip-dendritic cells. These cells are derived from a type of inflammatory white blood cell that accumulates in the brain and the spinal cord during experimental autoimmune enceph
|Contact: Leila Gray|
University of Washington