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Deficiency of autophagy in dendritic cells protects against experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis

Bhattacharya, A;Parillon, X;Zeng, S;Han, S;Eissa, NT;

Dendritic cells (DCs) are the most potent antigen-presenting cells (APCs) in the immune system. DCs present antigens to CD8 and CD4 T cells in the context of class I or II MHC. Recent evidence suggests that autophagy, a conserved intracellular degradation pathway, regulates class II antigen presentation. In vitro studies have shown that deletion of autophagy-related genes reduced antigen presentation by APCs to CD4 T cells. In vivo studies confirmed these findings in the context of infectious diseases. However, the relevance of autophagy-mediated antigen presentation in autoimmunity remains to be elucidated. Here, we report that loss of autophagy-related gene 7 (Atg7) in DCs ameliorated experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a CD4 T cell-mediated mouse model of multiple sclerosis, by reducing in vivo priming of T cells. In contrast, severity of hapten-induced contact hypersensitivity, in which CD8 T cells and NK cells play major roles, was unaffected. Administration of the autophagy-lysosomal inhibitor chloroquine, before EAE onset, delayed disease progression and, when administered after the onset, reduced disease severity. Our data show that autophagy is required in DCs for induction of EAE and suggest that autophagy might be a potential target for treating CD4 T cell-mediated autoimmune conditions.