Regulatory T lymphocytes from ALS mice suppress microglia and effector T lymphocytes through different cytokine-mediated mechanisms

Neurobiol Dis. 2012 Dec;48(3):418-28. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2012.07.008. Epub 2012 Jul 17.


Activated microglia and infiltrating lymphocytes are neuropathological hallmarks of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal motoneuron disease. Although both cell types play pivotal roles in the ALS pathogenic process, the interactions between microglia and lymphocytes, specifically regulatory CD4+CD25High T lymphocytes (Tregs) and cytotoxic CD4+CD25- T lymphocytes (Teffs), have not been addressed. When co-cultured with mSOD1 adult microglia, mSOD1 Tregs suppressed the cytotoxic microglial factors NOX2 and iNOS through an IL-4-mediated mechanism, whereas Teffs were only minimally effective; IL-4 inhibitory antibodies blocked the suppressive function of mSOD1 Tregs, and conditioned media from mSOD1 Tregs or the addition of IL-4 reduced microglial NOX2 expression. During the stable disease phase, the total number of Tregs, specifically the numbers of CD4+CD25HighIL-4+, CD4+CD25HighIL-10+ and CD4+CD25HighTGF-β+ Tregs, were increased in ALS mice compared with WT mice; Tregs isolated during this phase reduced Teff proliferation. In contrast, during the rapidly progressing phase, the number of mSOD1 Tregs decreased while the proliferation of mSOD1 Teffs increased. The combination of IL-4, IL-10, and TGF-β was required to inhibit the proliferation of mSOD1 Teffs by mSOD1 Tregs that were isolated during the slow phase, while inhibition of mSOD1 Teffs by mSOD1 Tregs during the rapid phase, as well as WT Teffs, was not dependent on these factors. Thus, mSOD1 Tregs at the slow phase suppressed microglial toxicity and SOD1 Teff proliferation through different mechanisms; microglial activation was suppressed through IL-4 whereas mSOD1 Teffs were suppressed by IL-4, IL-10 and TGF-β. These data suggest that mSOD1 Tregs contribute to the slowly progressing phase in ALS mice and may offer a novel therapeutic option for ALS patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / immunology*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Communication
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Microglia / immunology*
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism


  • Cytokines