Myelin-specific encephalitogenic T cells, when passively transferred into rats or mice, cause an experimental autoimmune disease. Previous studies by our group have shown that (a) the same cells also significantly reduce post-traumatic degeneration in these animals after injury to the central nervous system, (b) this beneficial autoimmunity is a physiological response, and (c) animals differ in their ability to resist injurious conditions, and the ability to resist post-traumatic degeneration correlates with resistance to the development of an autoimmune disease. Here we show that optic nerve neurons in both resistant and susceptible rat strains can be protected from secondary degeneration after crush injury by immunization with myelin basic protein emulsified in complete or incomplete Freund's adjuvant. We provide evidence that potentially destructive autoimmunity (causing autoimmune disease) and beneficial autoimmunity (causing improved neuronal survival) both result from activity of the same myelin-specific, proinflammatory Th1 cells. We further show that following passive transfer of such Th1 cells, the expression of their beneficial potential depends on the activity of an additional T cell (CD4+) population. By identifying the additional cellular component of autoimmune neuroprotection, we may be able to take meaningful steps toward achieving neuroprotection without risk of accompanying autoimmune disease.
- Myelin specific Th1 cell
- Post-traumatic protective autoimmunity