Dietary phytol reduces clinical symptoms in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) at least partially by modulating NOX2 expression

J Mol Med (Berl). 2018 Oct;96(10):1131-1144. doi: 10.1007/s00109-018-1689-7. Epub 2018 Aug 27.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory, demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. We investigated the effect of phytol in an animal model of MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), as phytol, a plant-derived diterpene alcohol, exerts anti-inflammatory and redox-protective actions. We observed a significant amelioration of clinical symptoms in EAE C57BL/6N mice fed prophylactically with a phytol-enriched diet. Demyelination, DNA damage, and infiltration of immune cells, specifically TH1 cells, into the central nervous system were reduced in phytol-fed EAE mice. Furthermore, phytol reduced T-cell proliferation ex vivo. Phytanic acid - a metabolite of phytol - also reduced T-cell proliferation, specifically that of TH1 cells. Additionally, phytol-enriched diet increased the mRNA expression of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase (NOX) 2 in white blood cells in the lymph nodes. Accordingly, phytol lost its anti-inflammatory effects in chimeric EAE C57BL/6N mice whose peripheral cells lack NOX2, indicating that phytol mediates its effects in peripheral cells via NOX2. Moreover, the effects of phytol on T-cell proliferation were also NOX2-dependent. In contrast, the T-cell subtype alterations and changes in proliferation induced by phytanic acid, the primary metabolite of phytol, were NOX2-independent. In conclusion, phytol supplementation of the diet leads to amelioration of EAE pathology in both a NOX2-dependent and a NOX2-independent manner via yet unknown mechanisms.

Key messages: Phytol diet ameliorates EAE pathology. Phytol diet reduces demyelination, immune cell infiltration, and T-cell proliferation. Phytol diet increases NOX2 mRNA expression in white blood cells in the lymph nodes. Phytol mediates its effects in peripheral cells via NOX2. Effects of phytol on T-cell proliferation were NOX2-dependent.

Keywords: 8-OHG; Foxp3; GATA-3; Neutrophils; Phytanic acid; RORγt; T-bet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / diet therapy*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology
  • Female
  • Lymph Nodes / drug effects
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • NADPH Oxidase 2 / immunology*
  • Phytol / pharmacology
  • Phytol / therapeutic use*
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects
  • Spinal Cord / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Phytol
  • Cybb protein, mouse
  • NADPH Oxidase 2