Clozapine reduces infiltration into the CNS by targeting migration in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis

J Neuroinflammation. 2020 Feb 12;17(1):53. doi: 10.1186/s12974-020-01733-4.


Background: Atypical antipsychotic agents, such as clozapine, are used to treat schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders by a mechanism that is believed to involve modulating the immune system. Multiple sclerosis is an immune-mediated neurological disease, and recently, clozapine was shown to reduce disease severity in an animal model of MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). However, the mode of action by which clozapine reduces disease in this model is poorly understood.

Methods: Because the mode of action by which clozapine reduces neuroinflammation is poorly understood, we used the EAE model to elucidate the in vivo and in vitro effects of clozapine.

Results: In this study, we report that clozapine treatment reduced the infiltration of peripheral immune cells into the central nervous system (CNS) and that this correlated with reduced expression of the chemokines CCL2 and CCL5 transcripts in the brain and spinal cord. We assessed to what extent immune cell populations were affected by clozapine treatment and we found that clozapine targets the expression of chemokines by macrophages and primary microglia. Furthermore, in addition to decreasing CNS infiltration by reducing chemokine expression, we found that clozapine directly inhibits chemokine-induced migration of immune cells. This direct target on the immune cells was not mediated by a change in receptor expression on the immune cell surface but by decreasing downstream signaling via these receptors leading to a reduced migration.

Conclusions: Taken together, our study indicates that clozapine protects against EAE by two different mechanisms; first, by reducing the chemoattractant proteins in the CNS; and second, by direct targeting the migration potential of peripheral immune cells.

Keywords: Clozapine; EAE; MS; Migration; Neuroinflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Movement / drug effects*
  • Chemokine CCL2 / metabolism
  • Chemokine CCL5 / metabolism
  • Clozapine / pharmacology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Serotonin Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects*
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism


  • Chemokine CCL2
  • Chemokine CCL5
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • Clozapine