Increased severity of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, chronic macrophage/microglial reactivity, and demyelination in transgenic mice producing tumor necrosis factor-alpha in the central nervous system

Eur J Immunol. 1997 Apr;27(4):905-13. doi: 10.1002/eji.1830270416.


Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is an inflammatory cytokine implicated in a number of autoimmune diseases. Apoptotic cell death is induced by TNF-alpha in vitro, and has been suggested as one cause of autoimmune pathology, including autoimmune demyelinating diseases where oligodendrocytes are a target of immune attack. TNF-alpha also regulates macrophage activity which could contribute to autoimmune inflammation. We have expressed TNF-alpha at disease-equivalent levels in the central nervous system of transgenic mice, using a myelin basic protein (MBP) promoter. These mice were normal and showed no spontaneous pathology, but they developed experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) with greater severity than nontransgenic controls when immunized with MBP in adjuvant. Unlike nontransgenic controls, EAE then progressed to a nonabating demyelinating disease. Macrophage/microglial reactivity was evident in demyelinating lesions in spinal cord, but T cells were not detected during chronic disease. The participation of TNF-alpha in the demyelinating process is thus more probably due to the perpetuation of macrophage/microglial activation than to direct cytotoxicity of myelin or oligodendroglia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / etiology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / pathology
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / analysis
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Macrophage-1 Antigen / analysis
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microglia / classification
  • Microglia / immunology*
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Molecular Weight
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Macrophage-1 Antigen
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens