Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory, demyelinating disease of the CNS. Although CD4+ T cells are implicated in MS pathogenesis and have been the main focus of MS research using the animal model experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), substantial evidence from patients with MS points to a role for CD8+ T cells in disease pathogenesis. We previously showed that an MHC class I-restricted epitope of myelin basic protein (MBP) is presented in the CNS during CD4+ T cell-initiated EAE. Here, we investigated whether naive MBP-specific CD8+ T cells recruited to the CNS during CD4+ T cell-initiated EAE engaged in determinant spreading and influenced disease. We found that the MBP-specific CD8+ T cells exacerbated brain but not spinal cord inflammation. We show that a higher frequency of monocytes and monocyte-derived cells presented the MHC class I-restricted MBP ligand in the brain compared with the spinal cord. Infiltration of MBP-specific CD8+ T cells enhanced ROS production in the brain only in these cell types and only when the MBP-specific CD8+ T cells expressed Fas ligand (FasL). These results suggest that myelin-specific CD8+ T cells may contribute to disease pathogenesis via a FasL-dependent mechanism that preferentially promotes lesion formation in the brain.
Keywords: Autoimmunity; Fas signaling; Multiple sclerosis; T cells.