Cytokine secretion profile of myelin basic protein-specific T cells in multiple sclerosis

C. Rohowsky-Kochan, D. Molinaro, S. Cook

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41 Scopus citations


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease of the central nervous system with a presumed autoimmune pathogenesis involving autoantigen-specific CD4+ T cells and cytokines. A similar frequency of T cells responding to myelin basic protein (MBP), a putative target in MS, has been observed in MS patients and controls. To dissect the differences between MBP-specific T cells in patients and controls, we have analyzed the cytokine secretion profile of such autoreactive T cells. MBP-specific T cell clones (TCC) were isolated from the peripheral blood of MS patients and controls by limiting dilution. Expression of mRNA for interferon-γ (IFN-γ), interleukin (IL)-4, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) was assessed by polymerase chain reaction whereas secretion of cytokine protein was measured by ELISA. MBP-specific TCC exhibited a heterogeneous cytokine secretion profile with clones displaying Th1, Th2 and Th0 phenotypes. A significant difference in the distribution of the cytokine profile was noted between MS patients and controls. Although the frequency of Th1 secreting MBP-reactive TCC was similar between MS patients and controls, stable MS patients had a significant association with the Th0 phenotype whereas healthy individuals were associated with the Th2 phenotype. In comparison to control TCC, MBP-specific TCC from MS patients secreted increased amounts of IFN-γ, IL-4 and IL-10 and decreased quantities of TGF-β. Thus, these studies suggest that there is a dysregulation in the balance between pro-inflammatory Th1 and anti-inflammatory Th2 cytokines in MS. It appears that the presence of Th1 secreting autoreactive T cells in healthy individuals may be counterbalanced by the presence of cells secreting Th2 cytokines and by the augmented production of the immunosuppressive cytokine TGF-β, whereas in MS there is a decrease in these anti-inflammatory agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-77
Number of pages9
JournalMultiple Sclerosis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


  • Autoantigen-specific T cells
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Th1/Th2 cytokines


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