Publications & Posters

Involvement of cytotoxic Eomes-expressing CD4+ T cells in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences | March 16, 2021

Raveney BJE, Sato W, Takewaki D, Zhang C, Kanazawa T, Lin Y, Okamoto T, Araki M, Kimura Y, Sato N, Sano T, Saito Y, Oki S and Yamamura T

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2021;118:e2021818118



Multiple sclerosis (MS), a putative autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS), commonly presents as relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), characterized by recurrent episodes of peripheral disabling symptoms resulting from inflammatory CNS damage. Many RRMS patients transition to a chronic disease course with progressive neurological dysfunctions (secondary progressive MS, SPMS), with the progression rate varying between patients and over time. SPMS pathogenesis is now linked to immune-cell–mediated processes, although the mechanisms driving SPMS transition and progression remain elusive, and SPMS lacks biomarkers and effective treatments. We report the crucial involvement of cytotoxic CD4+ T cells expressing Eomes (Eomes+ Th cells) in SPMS pathogenesis—a Th cell subset previously identified in a mouse model of late/chronic autoimmune CNS inflammation. Few Eomes+ Th cells circulate in RRMS patient peripheral blood (n = 44), primary progressive MS (PPMS) patients (n = 25), or healthy controls (n = 42), but Eomes+ Th cells were significantly increased in SPMS (n = 105, P < 0.0001). Strikingly, lymphocytes isolated from SPMS autopsy brain samples revealed CD4+ T cells infiltrating CNS that coexpressed Eomes and the cytotoxic molecule granzyme B. In particular, the Eomes+ Th cell levels were increased in SPMS patients in progressive disease phases versus SPMS patients without current disability increases (P < 0.0001). Moreover, Eomes level acted as a biomarker to predict SPMS patients at risk of disease worsening with over 80% accuracy (ROC-AUC = 0.8276). Overall, our results indicate that granzyme B-expressing Eomes+ T helper cells are involved in the pathogenesis of SPMS, with significant implications for SPMS biomarkers and therapeutic targets.