Background: Spontaneous autoimmune peripheral neuropathy including Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) represents as one of the serious emergencies in neurology. Although pathological changes have been well documented, molecular and cellular mechanisms of GBS are still under-explored, partially due to short of appropriate animal models. The field lacks of spontaneous and translatable models for mechanistic investigations. As GBS is preceded often by viral or bacterial infection, a condition can enhance co-stimulatory activity; we sought to investigate the critical role of T cell co-stimulation in this autoimmune disease.
Results: Our previous study reported that transgene-derived constitutive expression of co-stimulator B7.2 on antigen presenting cells of the nervous tissues drove spontaneous neurological disorders. Depletion of CD4+ T cells in L31 mice accelerated the onset and increased the prevalence of the disease. In the current study, we further demonstrated that L31/CD4-/- mice exhibited both motor and sensory deficits, including weakness and paresis of limbs, numbness to mechanical stimuli and hypersensitivity to thermal stimulation. Pathological changes were characterized by massive infiltration of macrophages and CD8+ T cells, demyelination and axonal damage in peripheral nerves, while changes in spinal cords could be secondary to the PNS damage. In symptomatic L31/CD4-/- mice, the disruption of the blood neural barriers was observed mainly in peripheral nerves. Interestingly, the infiltration of immune cells was initiated in pre-symptomatic L31/CD4-/- mice, prior to the disease onset, in the DRG and spinal roots where the blood nerve barrier is virtually absent.
Conclusions: L31/CD4-/- mice mimic most parts of clinical and pathological signatures of GBS in human; thus providing an unconventional opportunity to experimentally explore the critical events that lead to spontaneous, autoimmune demyelinating disease of the peripheral nervous system.