Macrophages play a crucial role during the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS), a neuroinflammatory autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system. Important regulators of the metabolic and inflammatory phenotype of macrophages are liver X receptors (LXRs) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). Previously, it has been reported that PPARγ expression is decreased in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of MS patients. The goal of the present study was to determine to what extent PPARγ, as well as the closely related nuclear receptors PPARα and β and LXRα and β, are differentially expressed in monocytes from MS patients and how this change in expression affects the function of monocyte-derived macrophages. We demonstrate that monocytes of relapsing-remitting MS patients display a marked decrease in PPARγ expression, while the expression of PPARα and LXRα/β is not altered. Interestingly, exposure of monocyte-derived macrophages from healthy donors to MS-associated proinflammatory cytokines mimicked this reduction in PPARγ expression. While a reduced PPARγ expression did not affect the inflammatory and phagocytic properties of myelin-loaded macrophages, it did impact myelin processing by increasing the intracellular cholesterol load of myelin-phagocytosing macrophages. Collectively, our findings indicate that an inflammation-induced reduction in PPARγ expression promotes myelin-induced foam cell formation in macrophages in MS.
Keywords: PPARγ; inflammation; multiple sclerosis; myelin-loaded macrophages.