Gap junctions (GJs) coupling oligodendrocytes to astrocytes and to other oligodendrocytes are formed mainly by connexin47 (Cx47) and a smaller portion by connexin32 (Cx32). Mutations in both connexins cause inherited demyelinating disorders, but their expression is also disrupted in multiple sclerosis (MS). To clarify whether the loss of either Cx47 or Cx32 could modify the outcome of inflammation and myelin loss, we induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in fully backcrossed Cx32 knockout (KO) and Cx47KO mice and compared their outcome with wild type (WT, C57BI/6 N) mice. Cx47KO EAE mice developed the most severe phenotype assessed by clinical scores and behavioral testing, followed by Cx32KO and WT mice. Cx47KO more than Cx32KO EAE mice developed more microglial activation, myelin, and axonal loss than did WT mice. Oligodendrocyte apoptosis and precursor proliferation was also higher in Cx47KO than in Cx32KO or WT EAE mice. Similarly, blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) disruption and inflammatory infiltrates of macrophages, T- and B-cells were more severe in Cx47KO than either Cx32KO or WT EAE groups. Finally, expression profiling revealed that several proinflammatory cytokines were higher at the peak of inflammation in the Cx47KO mice and persisted at later stages of EAE in contrast to reduction of their levels in WT EAE mice. Thus, loss of oligodendrocyte GJs aggravates BSCB disruption and inflammatory myelin loss, likely due to dysregulation of proinflammatory cytokines. This mechanism may play an important role in MS brain with reduced connexin expression, as well as in patients with inherited mutations in oligodendrocyte connexins and secondary inflammation.
- experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis
- multiple sclerosis