The epigenetic drug Trichostatin A ameliorates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis via T cell tolerance induction and impaired influx of T cells into the spinal cord

Multiple sclerosis is a T cell mediated chronic demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. Although currently available therapies reduce relapses, they do not facilitate tolerization of myelin antigen-specific T lymphocytes to ensure prolonged protection against multiple sclerosis. Here, we show that treatment of NOD mice with the histone deacetylase inhibitor, Trichostatin A affords robust protection against myelin peptide induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. Protection was accompanied by histone hyperacetylation, and reduced inflammation and axonal damage in the spinal cord. Drug treatment diminished the generation of CD4+ memory T cells and induced tolerance in CD4+ T cells recognizing the immunizing myelin peptide. During the early immunization period, CD4+ T cells producing GM-CSF + IFN-γ, GM-CSF + IL-17A, as well as those expressing both IL-17A + IFN-γ (double-producers) were detected in the secondary lymphoid organs followed by the appearance of cells producing IFN-γ and GM-CSF. On the other hand, IFN-γ producing Th1 cells appear first in the spinal cord followed by cells producing IL-17A and GM-CSF. Treatment with Trichostatin A substantially reduced the frequencies of all T cells secreting various lymphokines both in the periphery and in the spinal cord. These data indicate that epigenetic modifications induced by histone hyperacetylation facilitates T cell tolerance induction in the periphery leading to reduced migration of T cells to the spinal cord and mitigation of neuronal damage and improved clinical outcome. These results suggest that epigenetic modulation of the genome may similarly offer benefits to multiple sclerosis patients via abrogating the function of encephalitogenic T lymphocytes without exerting severe side effects associated with currently used disease-modifying therapies. © 2017 Elsevier Inc.