PloS one

Effects of natalizumab treatment on Foxp3+ T regulatory cells.

PMID 18836525


Natalizumab, a monoclonal humanized antibody targeting the alpha-4 chain of very late activation antigen 4 (VLA-4) exerts impressive therapeutic effects in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Our objective was to study impacts of Natalizumab therapy on Foxp3+ T regulatory cells (Tregs) in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. A combined approach of in vitro and ex vivo experiments using T cells isolated from the peripheral blood of healthy donors and Natalizumab treated MS patients was chosen. We determined binding of Natalizumab and its effects on the frequency, transmigratory behaviour and suppressive function of Tregs. Binding of Natalizumab and expression of CD49d (alpha-4 chain of VLA-4) differed between non-regulatory and regulatory cells. Albeit Foxp3+ Tregs had lower levels of CD49d, Natalizumab blocked the transmigration of Foxp3+ Tregs similar to non-regulatory T cells. The frequency of peripheral blood Tregs was unaffected by Natalizumab treatment. Natalizumab does not alter the suppressive capacity of CD4+CD25(high)CD127(low)Foxp3+ Tregs under in vitro conditions. Furthermore, the impaired function of Tregs in MS patients is not restored by Natalizumab treatment. We provide a first detailed analysis of Natalizumab effects on the regulatory T cell population. Our prospective study shows that Foxp3+ Tregs express lower levels of VLA-4 and bind less Natalizumab. We further the understanding of the mechanisms of action of Natalizumab by demonstrating that unlike other immunomodulatory drugs the beneficial therapeutic effects of the monoclonal antibody are largely independent of alterations in Treg frequency or function.