J Neurosci. 2003 Aug 6;23(18):6993-7000
Diem R, Hobom M, Maier K, Weissert R, Storch MK, Meyer R, Bahr M.
Neurologische Universitatsklinik, 37075 Gottingen, Germany.
Optic neuritis is one of the most common clinical manifestations of multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic inflammatory disease of the CNS.
High-dosage methylprednisolone treatment has been established as the standard therapy of acute inflammation of the optic nerve (ON).
The rationale for corticosteroid treatment lies in the antiinflammatory and immunosuppressive properties of these drugs, as shown in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the animal model of MS.
To investigate the influence of methylprednisolone therapy on the survival of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the neurons that form the axons of the ON, we used a rat model of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-induced EAE.
Optic neuritis was diagnosed by recording visual evoked potentials, and RGC function was monitored by measuring electroretinograms.
Methylprednisolone treatment significantly increased RGC apoptosis during MOG-EAE.
By Western blot analysis, we identified the underlying molecular mechanism: a suppression of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphorylation, which is a key event in an endogenous neuroprotective pathway.
The methylprednisolone-induced inhibition of MAPK phosphorylation was calcium dependent.
Hence, we provide evidence for negative effects of steroid treatment on neuronal survival during chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease of the CNS, which should result in a reevaluation of the current therapy regimen.