Sodium benzoate, a food additive and a metabolite of cinnamon, modifies T cells at multiple steps and inhibits adoptive transfer of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis

J Immunol. 2007 Jul 1;179(1):275-83. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.179.1.275.


Experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) is the animal model for multiple sclerosis. This study explores a novel use of sodium benzoate (NaB), a commonly used food additive and a Food and Drug Administration-approved nontoxic drug for urea cycle disorders, in treating the disease process of relapsing-remitting EAE in female SJL/J mice. NaB, administered through drinking water at physiologically tolerable doses, ameliorated clinical symptoms and disease progression of EAE in recipient mice and suppressed the generation of encephalitogenic T cells in donor mice. Histological studies reveal that NaB effectively inhibited infiltration of mononuclear cells and demyelination in the spinal cord of EAE mice. Consequently, NaB also suppressed the expression of proinflammatory molecules and normalized myelin gene expression in the CNS of EAE mice. Furthermore, we observed that NaB switched the differentiation of myelin basic protein-primed T cells from Th1 to Th2 mode, enriched regulatory T cell population, and down-regulated the expression of various contact molecules in T cells. Taken together, our results suggest that NaB modifies encephalitogenic T cells at multiple steps and that NaB may have therapeutic importance in multiple sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adoptive Transfer* / methods
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / metabolism
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Cell Movement / immunology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cinnamomum zeylanicum / metabolism*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / pathology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Food Preservatives / metabolism
  • Food Preservatives / pharmacology*
  • Food Preservatives / therapeutic use
  • Growth Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Growth Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Growth Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology
  • Myelin Basic Protein / administration & dosage
  • Myelin Basic Protein / immunology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sodium Benzoate / metabolism
  • Sodium Benzoate / pharmacology
  • Sodium Benzoate / therapeutic use*
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes / transplantation


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Food Preservatives
  • Growth Inhibitors
  • Myelin Basic Protein
  • Sodium Benzoate