Interleukin 4 (IL-4) can improve the clinical manifestations in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS). Sodium benzoate (NaB) deviates the cytokine profile to Th2 (or IL-4 producing) cells in EAE and thus might be effective in the treatment of MS. Therefore, in this study the effect of different concentrations of NaB on the percentage and mRNA levels of IL-4 and interferon gamma (IFN-γ)-producing peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of 20 Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RR-MS) patients and eight healthy controls was evaluated in the presence of mitogen (phytohemagglutinin, PHA) or specific antigen (myelin basic protein, MBP). Our results showed that in the patient's group the percentage of CD4(+)IL-4(+) cells was significantly increased in the presence of all concentrations of NaB when PBMCs were stimulated by MBP (p = 0.001) or PHA (p < 0.03). The same results were obtained for normal donors in the highest concentration of NaB, 1000 µg/ml (p = 0.02). Moreover, in the patient's group the percentage of CD4(+)IFN-γ(+) cells was decreased significantly when the PBMCs were stimulated by PHA and NaB (p < 0.004) or by MBP and 1000 µg/ml of NaB (p < 0.03). The effect of NaB on IL-4 and IFN-γ production was also documented at the mRNA levels. In conclusion, our data suggest that NaB is able to induce IL-4 production by human PBMCs and therefore might be a useful candidate for conjunctive therapy in RR-MS.
Keywords: IFN-γ; IL-4; Th1; Th2; multiple sclerosis; sodium benzoate.