T-cell- and macrophage-mediated axon damage in the absence of a CNS-specific immune response: involvement of metalloproteinases.
Newman TA., Woolley ST., Hughes PM., Sibson NR., Anthony DC., Perry VH.
Recent evidence has highlighted the fact that axon injury is an important component of multiple sclerosis pathology. The issue of whether a CNS antigen-specific immune response is required to produce axon injury remains unresolved. We investigated the extent and time course of axon injury in a rodent model of a delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reaction directed against the mycobacterium bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG). Using MRI, we determined whether the ongoing axon injury is restricted to the period during which the blood-brain barrier is compromised. DTH lesions were initiated in adult rats by intracerebral injection of heat-killed BCG followed by a peripheral challenge with BCG. Our findings demonstrate that a DTH reaction to a non-CNS antigen within a CNS white matter tract leads to axon injury. Ongoing axon injury persisted throughout the 3-month period studied and was not restricted to the period of blood-brain barrier breakdown, as detected by MRI enhancing lesions. We have previously demonstrated that matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are upregulated in multiple sclerosis plaques and DTH lesions. In this study we demonstrated that microinjection of activated MMPs into the cortical white matter results in axon injury. Our results show that axon injury, possibly mediated by MMPs, is immunologically non-specific and may continue behind an intact blood-brain barrier.