Background: Brain inflammation plays a central role in numerous brain pathologies, including multiple sclerosis (MS). Microglial cells and astrocytes are the effector cells of neuroinflammation. They can be activated also by agents such as interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Peroxisome proliferator-associated receptor (PPAR) pathways are involved in the control of the inflammatory processes, and PPAR-beta seems to play an important role in the regulation of central inflammation. In addition, PPAR-beta agonists were shown to have trophic effects on oligodendrocytes in vitro, and to confer partial protection in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of MS. In the present work, a three-dimensional brain cell culture system was used as in vitro model to study antibody-induced demyelination and inflammatory responses. GW 501516, a specific PPAR-beta agonist, was examined for its capacity to protect from antibody-mediated demyelination and to prevent inflammatory responses induced by IFN-gamma and LPS.
Methods: Aggregating brain cells cultures were prepared from embryonal rat brain, and used to study the inflammatory responses triggered by IFN-gamma and LPS and by antibody-mediated demyelination induced by antibodies directed against myelin-oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG). The effects of GW 501516 on cellular responses were characterized by the quantification of the mRNA expression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-6 (IL-6), inducible NO synthase (i-NOS), PPAR-beta, PPAR-gamma, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), myelin basic protein (MBP), and high molecular weight neurofilament protein (NF-H). GFAP expression was also examined by immunocytochemistry, and microglial cells were visualized by isolectin B4 (IB4) and ED1 labeling.
Results: GW 501516 decreased the IFN-gamma-induced up-regulation of TNF-alpha and iNOS in accord with the proposed anti-inflammatory effects of this PPAR-beta agonist. However, it increased IL-6 m-RNA expression. In demyelinating cultures, reactivity of both microglial cells and astrocytes was observed, while the expression of the inflammatory cytokines and iNOS remained unaffected. Furthermore, GW 501516 did not protect against the demyelination-induced changes in gene expression.
Conclusion: Although GW 501516 showed anti-inflammatory activity, it did not protect against antibody-mediated demyelination. This suggests that the protective effects of PPAR-beta agonists observed in vivo can be attributed to their anti-inflammatory properties rather than to a direct protective or trophic effect on oligodendrocytes.