Treatment with sex hormones is known to protect against experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of multiple sclerosis. However, little is known about how age affects the course of EAE or response to hormone treatment. This study demonstrates striking differences between middle-age vs young C57BL/6 male mice in the clinical course of EAE and response to both testosterone (T4) and estrogen (E2) hormone therapy. Unlike young males that developed an acute phase of EAE followed by a partial remission, middle-age males suffered severe chronic and unremitting EAE that was likely influenced by alterations in the distribution and function of splenic immunocytes and a significant reduction in suppressive activity of CD4 +CD25+ regulatory T cells in the spleen and spinal cord. Middle-age males had reduced numbers of splenic CD4+ T cells that were generally hypoproliferative, but enhanced numbers of splenic macrophages and MHC class II-expressing cells, and increased secretion of the proinflammatory factors IFN-γ and MCP-1. Surprisingly, middle-age males were unresponsive to the EAE-protective effects of T4 and had only a transient benefit from E2 treatment; young males were almost completely protected by both hormone treatments. T4 treatment of young males inhibited proliferation of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein 35-55-specific T cells and secretion of TNF-α and IFN-γ. The effects of T4 in vivo and in vitro were reversed by the androgen receptor antagonist, flutamide, indicating that the regulatory effects of T4 were mediated through the androgen receptor. These data are the first to define age-dependent differences in EAE expression and response to hormone therapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy