Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Progression of relapsing-remitting demyelinating disease does not require increased TCR affinity or epitope spread.

PMID 25267971


In this study, we investigate the basis of T cell recognition of myelin that governs the progression from acute symptoms into disease remission, relapse, and chronic progression in a secondary progressive model of demyelinating disease. Until now, the frequency and affinity of myelin-reactive CD4 T cells that elicit relapsing-remitting disease have not been quantified. The micropipette adhesion frequency assay was used to obtain a sensitive and physiologically relevant two-dimensional measurement of frequency and TCR affinity for myelin, as the inherent low affinity does not allow the use of specific peptide:MHC-II tetramers for this purpose. We found the highest affinity and frequency of polyclonal myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein-reactive cells infiltrate the CNS during acute disease, whereas affinities during remission, relapse, and chronic disease are not significantly different from each other. Frequency analysis revealed that the vast majority of CNS-infiltrating CD4 T cells are myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein reactive at all time points, demonstrating epitope spread is not a predominant factor for disease progression. Furthermore, time points at which mice were symptomatic were characterized by an infiltration of Th17 cells in the CNS, whereas symptom remission showed an enrichment of cells producing IFN-γ. Also, the ratio of regulatory T cells to Foxp3(-) CD4 T cells was significantly higher in the CNS at remission than during acute disease. The results of this study indicate that a high frequency of T cells specific for a single myelin Ag, rather than increased TCR affinity or epitope spread, governs the transition from acute symptoms through remission, relapse, and chronic disease states.