Single-Nucleus RNA-seq of Normal-Appearing Brain Regions in Relapsing-Remitting vs. Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis: Implications for the Efficacy of Fingolimod

Front Cell Neurosci. 2022 Jun 17;16:918041. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2022.918041. eCollection 2022.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated demyelinating disease that alters central nervous system (CNS) functions. Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) is the most common form, which can transform into secondary-progressive MS (SPMS) that is associated with progressive neurodegeneration. Single-nucleus RNA sequencing (snRNA-seq) of MS lesions identified disease-related transcriptomic alterations; however, their relationship to non-lesioned MS brain regions has not been reported and which could identify prodromal or other disease susceptibility signatures. Here, snRNA-seq was used to generate high-quality RRMS vs. SPMS datasets of 33,197 nuclei from 8 normal-appearing MS brains, which revealed divergent cell type-specific changes. Notably, SPMS brains downregulated astrocytic sphingosine kinases (SPHK1/2) - the enzymes required to phosphorylate and activate the MS drug, fingolimod. This reduction was modeled with astrocyte-specific Sphk1/2 null mice in which fingolimod lost activity, supporting functionality of observed transcriptomic changes. These data provide an initial resource for studies of single cells from non-lesioned RRMS and SPMS brains.

Keywords: FTY720; S1P1; lysophospholipid receptors; neuroinflammation; ozanimod; ponesimod; siponimod.