A recent study of autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) for active relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) showed efficacy in preventing disease worsening. However, the immunologic basis for efficacy remains poorly defined. Multiple sclerosis pathology is known to be driven by inflammatory T cells that infiltrate the CNS. Therefore, we hypothesized that the preexisting T cell repertoire in the intrathecal compartment of active RRMS participants was ablated and replaced with new clones following AHSCT. T cell repertoires were assessed using high-throughput TCRβ chain sequencing in paired cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and peripheral blood CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from participants that underwent AHSCT, before and up to 4 years following transplantation. More than 90% of the preexisting CSF repertoire in participants with active RRMS was removed following AHSCT and replaced with clonotypes predominantly generated from engrafted autologous stem cells. Of the preexisting clones in CSF, approximately 60% were also detected in blood before therapy, and concordant treatment effects were observed for clonotypes in both compartments following AHSCT. These results indicate that replacement of the preexisting TCR repertoire in active RRMS is a mechanism for AHSCT efficacy and suggest that peripheral blood could serve as a surrogate for CSF to define mechanisms associated with efficacy in future studies of AHSCT.
Keywords: Autoimmunity; Hematopoietic stem cells; Immunology; Multiple sclerosis; T-cell receptor.