A subtype of multiple sclerosis defined by an activated immune defense program

Genes Immun. 2006 Sep;7(6):522-31. doi: 10.1038/sj.gene.6364324. Epub 2006 Jul 13.


Given the heterogeneous nature of multiple sclerosis (MS), we applied DNA microarray technology to determine whether variability is reflected in peripheral blood (PB) cells. In this study, we studied whole-blood gene expression profiles of 29 patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and 25 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. We used microarrays with a complexity of 43K cDNAs. The data were analyzed using sophisticated pathway-level analysis in order to provide insight into the deregulated peripheral immune response programs in MS. We found a remarkable elevated expression of a spectrum of genes known to be involved in immune defense in the PB of MS patients compared to healthy individuals. Cluster analysis revealed that the increased expression of these genes was characteristic for approximately half of the patients. In addition, the gene signature in this group of patients was comparable with a virus response program. We conclude that the transcriptional signature of the PB cells reflects the heterogeneity of MS and defines a sub-population of RRMS patients, who exhibit an activated immune defense program that resembles a virus response program, which is supportive for a link between viruses and MS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Humans
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Interferon Type I / metabolism
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / blood
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / genetics*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / immunology*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Poxviridae Infections / genetics
  • Signal Transduction
  • Up-Regulation


  • Interferon Type I