T cells, cytokines, and autoantigens in multiple sclerosis

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In multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammatory demyelination in the central nervous system is thought to be initiated by T cells that recognize myelin antigens. T cells are the main regulators of acquired immunity and are involved in the pathogenesis of several organ-specific autoimmune diseases. This review provides an overview of recent studies on the role of T cells in autoimmune demyelination. Because autoreactive T cells are normally present in the mature repertoire of T cells in the blood and lymphoid organs of MS patients, but also in normal controls, particular attention is devoted to the mechanisms of activation and the functional phenotype of such T cells in patients with MS. The role of cytokines as effector molecules and the main candidate antigens are also discussed.