, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 38-51
Date: 28 Jul 2013

Interleukin-1β Promotes Long-Term Potentiation in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis

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The immune system shapes synaptic transmission and plasticity in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS). These synaptic adaptations are believed to drive recovery of function after brain lesions, and also learning and memory deficits and excitotoxic neurodegeneration; whether inflammation influences synaptic plasticity in MS patients is less clear. In a cohort of 59 patients with MS, we found that continuous theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation did not induce the expected long-term depression (LTD)-like synaptic phenomenon, but caused persisting enhancement of brain cortical excitability. The amplitude of this long-term potentiation (LTP)-like synaptic phenomenon correlated with the concentration of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-1β) in the cerebrospinal fluid. In MS and EAE, the brain and spinal cord are typically enriched of CD3+ T lymphocyte infiltrates, which are, along with activated microglia and astroglia, a major cause of inflammation. Here, we found a correlation between the presence of infiltrating T lymphocytes in the hippocampus of EAE mice and synaptic plasticity alterations. We observed that T lymphocytes from EAE, but not from control mice, release IL-1β and promote LTP appearance over LTD, thereby mimicking the facilitated LTP induction observed in the cortex of MS patients. EAE-specific T lymphocytes were able to suppress GABAergic transmission in an IL-1β-dependent manner, providing a possible synaptic mechanism able to lower the threshold of LTP induction in MS brains. Moreover, in vivo blockade of IL-1β signaling resulted in inflammation and synaptopathy recovery in EAE hippocampus. These data provide novel insights into the pathophysiology of MS.

Francesco Mori and Robert Nisticò are equally contributing first authors.