Peroxisome injury in multiple sclerosis: protective effects of 4-phenylbutyrate in CNS-associated macrophages

J Neurosci. 2022 Aug 8;42(37):7152-7165. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0312-22.2022. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive and inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Peroxisomes perform critical functions that contribute to CNS homeostasis. We investigated peroxisome injury and mitigating effects of peroxisome-restorative therapy on inflammatory demyelination in models of MS.

Methods: Human autopsied CNS tissues (male and female), human cell cultures and cuprizone-mediated demyelination mice (female) were examined by RT-PCR, western blotting and immunolabeling. The therapeutic peroxisome proliferator, 4-phenylbutyrate (4-PBA) was investigated in vitro and in vivo.

Results: White matter from MS patients showed reduced peroxisomal transcript and protein levels, including PMP70, compared to non-MS controls. Cultured human neural cells revealed that human microglia contained abundant peroxisomal proteins. TNF-α-exposed microglia displayed reduced immunolabeling of peroxisomal proteins, PMP70 and PEX11β, which was prevented with 4-PBA. In human myeloid cells exposed to TNF-α or nigericin, suppression of PEX11β and catalase protein levels were observed to be dependent on NLRP3 expression. Hindbrains from cuprizone-exposed mice showed reduced Abcd1, Cat, and Pex5l transcript levels, with concurrent increased Nlrp3 and Il1b transcript levels, which was abrogated by 4-PBA. In the central corpus callosum, Iba-1 in CNS-associated macrophages (CAMs) and peroxisomal thiolase immunostaining after cuprizone exposure was increased by 4-PBA. 4-PBA prevented decreased myelin basic protein and neurofilament heavy chain immunoreactivity caused by cuprizone exposure. Cuprizone-induced neurobehavioral deficits were improved by 4-PBA treatment.

Conclusions: Peroxisome injury in CAMs, contributed to neuroinflammation and demyelination that was prevented by 4-PBA treatment. A peroxisome-targeted therapy might be valuable for treating inflammatory demyelination and neurodegeneration in MS.Significance statement:Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a common and disabling disorder of the CNS with no curative therapies for its progressive form. The present studies implicate peroxisome impairment in CNS-associated macrophages (CAMs), which include resident microglia and blood-derived macrophages, as an important contributor to inflammatory demyelination and neuroaxonal injury in MS. We also show that the inflammasome molecule NLRP3 is associated with peroxisome injury in vitro and in vivo, especially in CAMs. Treatment with the peroxisome proliferator 4-phenylbutyrate exerted protective effects with improved molecular, morphological and neurobehavioral outcomes that were associated with a neuroprotective CAM phenotype. These findings offer novel insights into the contribution of peroxisome injury in MS together with preclinical testing of a rational therapy for MS.