The neuropathobiology of multiple sclerosis

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2024 May 24. doi: 10.1038/s41583-024-00823-z. Online ahead of print.


Chronic low-grade inflammation and neuronal deregulation are two components of a smoldering disease activity that drives the progression of disability in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Although several therapies exist to dampen the acute inflammation that drives MS relapses, therapeutic options to halt chronic disability progression are a major unmet clinical need. The development of such therapies is hindered by our limited understanding of the neuron-intrinsic determinants of resilience or vulnerability to inflammation. In this Review, we provide a neuron-centric overview of recent advances in deciphering neuronal response patterns that drive the pathology of MS. We describe the inflammatory CNS environment that initiates neurotoxicity by imposing ion imbalance, excitotoxicity and oxidative stress, and by direct neuro-immune interactions, which collectively lead to mitochondrial dysfunction and epigenetic dysregulation. The neuronal demise is further amplified by breakdown of neuronal transport, accumulation of cytosolic proteins and activation of cell death pathways. Continuous neuronal damage perpetuates CNS inflammation by activating surrounding glia cells and by directly exerting toxicity on neighbouring neurons. Further, we explore strategies to overcome neuronal deregulation in MS and compile a selection of neuronal actuators shown to impact neurodegeneration in preclinical studies. We conclude by discussing the therapeutic potential of targeting such neuronal actuators in MS, including some that have already been tested in interventional clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review