Timing of treatment with an endogenous opioid alters immune response and spinal cord pathology... (Abstract)

Timing of treatment with an endogenous opioid alters immune response and spinal cord pathology in female mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis

J Neurosci Res
25 November 2021

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that primarily affects women during the second or third decade of life. The mechanism is hypothesized to involve unregulated peripheral inflammation resulting in blood-brain barrier damage, and eventual axonal damage and demyelination. Based on this understanding, the animal model of MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), often is utilized to study lymphocyte activation. Therapeutic paradigms of exogenous opioid growth factor (OGF) or low-dose naltrexone (LDN) treatment can modulate EAE, but little is reported regarding OGF or LDN effects on peripheral inflammation, microglia activation, and/or macrophage proliferation. Moreover, little is known about differential responses to LDN or OGF relative to the duration and timing of treatment. Utilizing a female mouse model of EAE, two treatment regimens were established to investigate differences between prophylactic treatment and traditional therapy initiated at the time of disease presentation. Prophylactic OGF or LDN treatment delayed the onset of behavior, suppressed neutrophil replication, and curtailed lymphocyte proliferation which ultimately improved behavioral outcome. Traditional therapy with OGF or LDN reversed behavioral deficits, restored OGF and IL-17 serum levels, and inhibited microglial activation within 8 days. Reduced serum OGF levels in untreated EAE mice correlated with increased microglia activation within lumbar spinal cords. Both treatment regimens of OGF or LDN reduced activated microglia, whereas only prophylactic treatment prevented CNS macrophage aggregation. These data demonstrate that the timing of LDN or OGF treatment initiation alters outcomes and can prevent or reverse behavioral deficits, cytokine activation, and spinal cord pathology.

Keywords: [Met5]-enkephalin; experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; inflammatory cytokines; low-dose naltrexone; macrophages; microglia.