J Immunol. 2003 Jul 1;171(1):432-7
Hug A, Korporal M, Schroder I, Haas J, Glatz K, Storch-Hagenlocher B, Wildemann B.
Department of Neurology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory and possibly autoimmune mediated demyelinating disease of the CNS.
Autoimmunity within the CNS may be triggered by dysfunction of peripheral immune tolerance mechanisms via changes in the homeostatic composition of peripheral T cells.
We have assessed the release of naive T lymphocytes from the thymus in patients with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) to identify alterations in the equilibrium of the peripheral T cell compartment.
Thymic T cell production was estimated by measuring TCR excision circles (TRECs) as a traceable molecular marker in recent thymic emigrants.
A total of 46 treatment-naive patients with active RRMS and 49 gender- and age-matched healthy persons were included in the study.
The levels of TREC-expressing CD4(+) and CD8(+) T lymphocytes were significantly decreased in MS patients, and TREC quantities overall matched those of 30 years older healthy individuals.
The average concentrations of TRECs/10(6) CD4(+) and CD8(+) T lymphocytes derived from MS patients and healthy donors were 26 x 10(3)/10(6) and 28 x 10(3)/10(6) vs 217 x 10(3)/10(6) and 169 x 10(3)/10(6), respectively.
To account for any influence of T cell proliferation on TREC levels, we assayed T lymphocytes from additional patients with MS and normal individuals for telomere length (n = 20) and telomerase activity (8 MS patients, 16 controls), respectively.
There were no significant differences between CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells from MS patients and controls.
Altogether, our findings suggest that an impaired thymic export function and, as a consequence, altered ability to maintain T cell homeostasis and immune tolerance may play an important pathogenic role in RRMS.