Background and purpose: Dietary indole derivatives, indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM), possess anti-cancer properties and exhibit the characteristics of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) ligands. Because AhR activation has recently been shown to regulate T cell differentiation, we tested the hypothesis that I3C and DIM may mediate anti-inflammatory properties by promoting regulatory T cell (T-regs) differentiation while inhibiting Th17 cells.
Experimental approach: We investigated the therapeutic efficacy of I3C and DIM against experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a murine model of multiple sclerosis (MS). The efficacy was evaluated based on clinical scores of paralysis, histopathology, serum cytokines and infiltration of T cells in the CNS. We next studied the mechanism of induction of T cells against myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG₃₅₋₅₅ ) peptide, both in vivo and in vitro, specifically investigating the differentiation of T-regs and Th17 cells, and determined if indoles were acting through AhR.
Key results: Pretreatment of EAE mice with I3C or DIM completely prevented the clinical symptoms and cellular infiltration into the CNS. Also, post-treatment of EAE with I3C or DIM proved highly effective in curtailing the overall severity of the disease. In addition, I3C or DIM promoted the generation of T-regs, while down-regulating the induction of MOG-specific Th17 cells. The regulation of FoxP3 induction and suppression of Th17 cells by indoles in vivo and in vitro were found to be AhR-dependent.
Conclusions and implications: Together, our studies demonstrate for the first time that I3C and DIM may serve as novel therapeutics to suppress neuroinflammation seen during MS through activation of AhR.
© 2013 The British Pharmacological Society.