The experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model of MS: utility for understanding disease pathophysiology and treatment

Handb Clin Neurol. 2014;122:173-89. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-52001-2.00008-X.


While no single model can exactly recapitulate all aspects of multiple sclerosis (MS), animal models are essential in understanding the induction and pathogenesis of the disease and to develop therapeutic strategies that limit disease progression and eventually lead to effective treatments for the human disease. Several different models of MS exist, but by far the best understood and most commonly used is the rodent model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). This model is typically induced by either active immunization with myelin-derived proteins or peptides in adjuvant or by passive transfer of activated myelin-specific CD4+ T lymphocytes. Mouse models are most frequently used because of the inbred genotype of laboratory mice, their rapid breeding capacity, the ease of genetic manipulation, and availability of transgenic and knockout mice to facilitate mechanistic studies. Although not all therapeutic strategies for MS have been developed in EAE, all of the current US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved immunomodulatory drugs are effective to some degree in treating EAE, a strong indicator that EAE is an extremely useful model to study potential treatments for MS. Several therapies, such as glatiramer acetate (GA: Copaxone), and natalizumab (Tysabri), were tested first in the mouse model of EAE and then went on to clinical trials. Here we discuss the usefulness of the EAE model in understanding basic disease pathophysiology and developing treatments for MS as well as the potential drawbacks of this model.

Keywords: Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; Th1/Th17; epitope spreading; immune tolerance; immunotherapy; regulatory T-cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / physiopathology
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects


  • Epitopes