γδ T cells in EAE: Early trafficking events and cytokine requirements

Authors


Abstract

We have previously shown that γδ T cells traffic to the CNS during EAE with concurrently increased expression of β2-integrins and production of IFN-γ and TNF-α. To extend these studies, we transferred bioluminescent γδ T cells to WT mice and followed their movement through the acute stages of disease. We found that γδ T cells rapidly migrated to the site of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein peptide injection and underwent massive expansion. Within 6 days after EAE induction, bioluminescent γδ T cells were found in the spinal cord and brain, peaking in number between days 10 and 12 and then rapidly declining by day 15. Reconstitution of γδ T cell−/− mice with γδ T cells derived from β2-integrin-deficient mice (CD11a, -b or -c) demonstrated that γδ T-cell trafficking to the CNS during EAE is independent of this family of adhesion molecules. We also examined the role of γδ T-cell-produced IFN-γ and TNF-α in EAE and found that production of both cytokines by γδ T cells was required for full development of EAE. These results indicate that γδ T cells are critical for the development of EAE and suggest a therapeutic target in demyelinating disease.

Introduction

γδ T cells are one of several T-cell subsets that contribute to the development of EAE, a T-cell-mediated autoimmune disease of the CNS that mimics many aspects of the human disease MS 1–3. Cellular infiltration of the brain and spinal cord by several leukocyte subsets, including γδ T cells 4–8, is a characteristic feature of both EAE and MS 1, 3. Although it has been appreciated for some time that γδ T cells produce cytokines that contribute to the pro-inflammatory milieu 9–15 and express adhesion molecules that may be critical for initial priming, trafficking to, and infiltration of the CNS 15–17, the significance of their contribution to demyelinating disease remains controversial.

γδ T cells are considered innate immune T cells by virtue of their limited T-cell receptor repertoire, tissue-specific homing patterns and recognition of non-traditional T-cell antigens 18–21. Activation of γδ T cells occurs on presentation of phosphoantigens, WC1 molecules or self-antigens by non-classical MHC molecules with cytokines and TLR providing co-stimulation 22–30. Regardless of the priming event(s), trafficking mechanisms employed by γδ T cells in demyelinating disease remain ill-defined. Studies have implicated VLA-4 as a participant in γδ T-cell adhesion to endothelium, epithelium or fibroblasts, and in transmigration 16, 17, 31, 32, but none have implicated VLA-4 in migration of γδ T cells to the CNS. In contrast, γδ T cells express all four members of the β2-integrin family of adhesion molecules and expression increases through the course of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-induced EAE 15. Importantly, deletion of three of the four β2-integrins (CD11a–c) results in significantly attenuated disease 33–36, implicating, but not directly proving, a role for these adhesion molecules in γδ T-cell trafficking into the CNS during disease.

Cytokine-mediated modulation of demyelinating disease by γδ T cells, either in humans or animal models, although the subject of numerous studies, also remains controversial. Early studies examined for the contribution of γδ T-cell-produced cytokines and chemokines after antibody-mediated depletion of γδ T cells 10, 11 and implicated these cells in the production of TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-1, IL-6, IL-12 and several others. Although informative, these studies could not directly attribute cytokine production to γδ T cells as they used spinal cord homogenate to analyze cytokine levels. In addition, γδ T-cell depletion was not monitored over the disease course in these studies raising the possibility of undefined levels of γδ T-cell-mediated cytokine production as disease progressed. Other studies have shown that γδ T cells producing IFN-γ and IL-4 are significantly elevated during EAE 12. Similar results were reported by Gao and colleagues 37; however, in this study it was shown that in both the spleen and CNS of normal mice, there were substantial numbers of CD3+ and γδ T cells secreting both IFN-γ and IL-4. Since the CNS of normal mice is usually devoid of any lymphocyte subset, and particularly of γδ T cells, the meaning of these results is unclear. More recent studies have indicated that γδ T cells act in an antigen-independent fashion to modulate cytokine production (IL-12 and IFN-γ) and thus the early effector phase of the immune response in EAE 13, 14. Ponomarev and colleagues have suggested that the immunomodulatory effect of γδ T cells in EAE is independent of their ability to produce IFN-γ 14.

In this report, we examine the trafficking of bioluminescent γδ T cells in the inductive and acute phases of EAE as well as the requirement for β2-integrins in trafficking. We observed that γδ T cells rapidly migrate to and expand at the site of MOG peptide injection. By day 6 after EAE induction, bioluminescent γδ T cells were found in the brain and spinal cord; however, by day 15 the CNS was largely devoid of γδ T cells. Reconstitution of γδ T cell−/− mice with γδ T cells derived from β2-integrin-deficient mice demonstrated that γδ T cell trafficking to the CNS is independent of this family of adhesion molecules. In addition, we examined the role of IFN-γ and TNF-α production by γδ T cells with respect to the development of EAE. We found that production of both cytokines by γδ T cells was required for fulminant EAE and that disease was significantly delayed and attenuated when mice were reconstituted with IFN-γ−/− γδ T cells. These results indicate that γδ T cells are critical in setting the stage for the development of EAE and may offer an unforeseen therapeutic target in demyelinating disease.

Results

Trafficking of γδ T cells prior to disease onset and in acute EAE

We induced EAE in γδ T cell−/− mice reconstituted with T-lux γδ T cells and performed in vivo bioluminescent imaging to visualize trafficking of γδ T cells before onset of disease symptoms. γδ T cells were found predominantly in the gut but could also be seen in various lymph nodes, primarily the cervical lymph nodes almost immediately after transfer as seen in ventral imaging of the mice (Fig. 1A, upper panel). By day 3 post induction of active EAE, the γδ T cells began accumulating in the cervical lymph nodes and the spleen and underwent expansion. Dorsal imaging of the mice revealed that γδ T cells rapidly traffic to the site of MOG injection (Fig. 1A, lower panel). By day 3 after induction, γδ T cells accumulated at both injection sites and underwent continuous expansion through day 9 post induction of EAE. Quantification of the images shows a significant increase in signal on the dorsal view of the mice when compared with the ventral view on days 8 and 9 of EAE suggesting little to no expansion of γδ T cells in the gut or other peripheral lymphoid tissues (Fig. 1B). Quantification of bioluminescent signal solely from the injection sites indicates that the increased dorsal bioluminescent signal was due largely to expansion of the γδ T cells in this location (Fig. 1C).

Figure 1.

Bioluminescent imaging of early trafficking events of γδT cells during active EAE. γδ T-cell-deficient mice were reconstituted with T-lux γδ T cells as described in the Materials and methods. EAE was induced and imaging was performed as described in the Materials and methods daily from day 0 to 9. (A) Each panel shows a representative ventral or dorsal image from one mouse at the indicated time points. Pseudo-color scale is shown to emphasize individual organ structures and areas in which γδ T cells have accumulated. Arrows indicate cervical and inguinal lymph nodes on ventral images. Arrows on dorsal images indicate spleen and the two sites of MOG peptide immunization. Quantification of bioluminescent signal from (B) the whole body in ventral (n=5, filled circles) and dorsal (n=5, open circles) images and (C) the sites of injection in the dorsal images are shown in counts/s. The dorsal images had significantly (*p<0.05) more bioluminescent signal on days 8 and 9 of EAE as measured by Anova. The mean±SEM are shown.

To further characterize the trafficking patterns of γδ T cells during EAE, we performed ex vivo imaging of spinal cord and brains from γδ T cell−/− mice reconstituted with T-lux γδ T cells at several time points after disease induction. γδ T cells were seen initially in the sacral region of the spinal cord at day 6 post induction of EAE and, as disease progressed, the cells were found throughout the spinal cord (Fig. 2A). Similarly, brain infiltration was observed starting at day 6 post induction of EAE and, by day 9, γδ T cells fully infiltrated the brain (Fig. 2B). γδ T-cell infiltration into the brain peaks at day 12 post induction of EAE, since by day 15, γδ T cells could not be detected by bioluminescent imaging (Fig. 2B and data not shown). These results are supported by flow cytometric data in which spinal cords were isolated at multiple time points post EAE induction and assessed for γδ T-cell infiltration (Fig. 2C). The expansion of γδ T cells peaked between days 10 and 12 post induction of EAE and these cells are essentially absent from the CNS by day 15 and at later time points (15, data not shown) We observed a peak in γδ T-cell infiltration between days 10 and 12, which matches the bioluminescent imaging data followed by a rapid decline.

Figure 2.

Bioluminescent imaging of γδ T cells in the brain and spinal cord during EAE. Mice deficient in γδ T cells were reconstituted with T-lux γδ T cells as described in the Materials and methods. Active EAE was induced in reconstituted mice and ex vivo bioluminescent images of the spinal cord (A, n=3) and brain (B, n=3) at indicated days were taken. The lower panel in (B) is the same brain sectioned at midline to show bioluminescent γδ T cells in the parenchyma and cerebellum. Representative images with a pseudo-color scale are shown to emphasize areas in which γδ T cells have accumulated. (C) Representative histograms show γδ (bold line) T cells in the spinal cord of EAE-induced mice 6, 10, 12, 15 days post immunization. Percentages of positive cells are indicated in each histogram. Cells were pooled from at least four mice per experiment and data shown are representative of at least three independent experiments; day 6 (n=5) are from one experiment. The gray area represents control staining.

Trafficking of LFA-1−/− γδ T cells in EAE

To determine if LFA-1 was critical to the trafficking of γδ T cells during EAE, in vivo bioluminescent images of actively induced γδ T-cell-deficient mice reconstituted with either WT T-lux or LFA-1−/−/T-lux γδ T cells were taken at various time points post EAE induction (Fig. 3A). Ventral images showed no difference in localization of WT and LFA-1−/− γδ T cells in the gut and the cervical lymph nodes of mice with active EAE (data not shown). Dorsal imaging demonstrated that WT and LFA-1−/− γδ T cells had localized and expanded at the site of immunization by day 7 post induction of active EAE (Fig. 3A, upper panel), similar to the results shown in Fig. 1. By day 9 post induction, and continuing through day 11, WT γδ T cells expanded throughout the dorsal region of the mouse and began to localize in the brachial lymph nodes and the brain. In contrast, at the same time points LFA-1−/− γδ T cells left the site of immunization and did not continue expanding (Fig. 3A, lower panel). Quantitation of bioluminescent signal from the images verified that WT and LFA-1−/− γδ T-cell localization and expansion was similar at the site of injection on day 7 but thereafter LFA-1−/− γδ T cell bioluminescent signal decreased while the WT signal remained high until day 13 of EAE (Fig. 3B). These data suggest that γδ T cells require LFA-1 for retention at a priming site and that LFA-1 is required, directly or indirectly, for γδ T cell co-stimulation.

Figure 3.

Bioluminescent imaging of WT and LFA-1−/− γδ T cells during EAE. γδ T-cell-deficient mice were reconstituted with T-lux and LFA-1−/−/T-lux γδ T cells as described in the Materials and methods. EAE was induced and imaging was performed as described in the Materials and methods. (A) Representative dorsal images from individual mice are shown from the indicated time points. A pseudo-color scale is shown to highlight organ structures and areas in which the γδ T cells have accumulated. Arrows indicate sites of immunization and brachial lymph nodes. (B) Bioluminescence from the whole body of dorsal images was quantitated (WT filled circles, n=4 and LFA-1−/− open circles, n=4). The mean±SEM are shown.

γδ T cells do not require β2-integrins for the development of EAE

It has been previously shown that γδ T cell−/− mice develop significantly delayed and attenuated disease compared with WT mice and we confirmed these original observations. In our hands EAE in γδ T cell−/− mice was significantly delayed (p=0.04, Wilcoxon signed rank test) and attenuated (p<0.0001, Wilcoxon signed rank test) (Fig. 4A and Table 1). Furthermore, when γδ T cell−/− mice are reconstituted with WT γδ T cells EAE mirrored that of WT mice. Reconstituted γδ T cell−/− mice developed EAE with a clinical severity closely approximating WT disease (cumulative disease index (CDI) 54.8 versus. 59.8, respectively) (Fig. 4A and Table 1). To determine if expression of β2-integrins on γδ T cells is critical to the development of clinical disease we reconstituted γδ T cell−/− mice with CD11a−/−, CD11b−/− or CD11c−/− γδ T cells, induced EAE and monitored mice for disease symptoms. We found that reconstitution with γδ T cells deficient in the various β2-integrin α-chains resulted in disease severity comparable to reconstitution with WT γδ T cells. A representative example of the EAE disease course after reconstitution with CD11a−/− γδ T cells is shown in Fig. 4B. Similar results were obtained on reconstitution with CD11b−/− and CD11c−/− γδ T cells (data not shown). Overall EAE parameters for reconstitution with CD11a-CD11c−/− γδ T cells are presented in Table 2. These data indicate that β2-integrins on γδ T cells are not critical to the development of EAE, at least in the experimental setting we employed. These results contrast sharply with the role of β2-integrins on αβ T cells in EAE 33–36.

Figure 4.

The clinical course of active EAE in γδ T cell−/− mice reconstituted with WT or LFA-1−/− γδ T cells is comparable to that of control mice. (A) γδ T-cell-deficient mice were reconstituted with WT γδ T cells and active EAE was induced in reconstituted (open circles, n=19), γδ T cell−/− (open squares, n=22), and control mice (filled circles, n=20). Clinical disease was monitored for 30 days as described in the Materials and methods. Mice deficient in γδ T cells had a significantly reduced clinical disease course compared with control mice (p<0.0001, Wilcoxon signed rank test), while there was no significant difference in EAE between control and γδ T cell−/− mice reconstituted with WT γδ T cells. (B) γδ T cell−/− mice were reconstituted with WT γδ T cells or LFA-1−/− γδ T cells and EAE was induced. The course of disease in WT (filled circles, n=4) and LFA-1−/− γδ T cell (open circles, n=4) reconstituted mice was not significantly different. The mean±SEM from three or more experiments are shown. Where not visible, errors bars are contained within the symbol.

Table 1. EAE in γδ T-cell-deficient mice reconstituted with WT γδ T cells
 Onseta)CDIb)Incidence (%)c)
  • a)

    a) Disease onset is the first of 2 consecutive days with a clinical score of 2 or more.

  • b)

    b) CDI is the mean sum of daily clinical scores from day 0 to 30.

  • c)

    c) Incidence is defined as the percentage of mice that displayed any signs of clinical disease.

WT (n=20)12d59.8100
γδ TCR−/− (n=22)13.4d36.891
γδ TCR−/−+WT γδ T cells (n=25)13.1d54.8100
Table 2. EAE in γδ T-cell-deficient mice reconstituted with β2-integrin-deficient γδ T cells
 Onseta)CDIb)Incidence (%)c)
  • a)

    a) Disease onset is the first of 2 consecutive days with a clinical score of 2 or more.

  • b)

    b) CDI is the mean sum of daily clinical scores from day 0 to 30.

  • c)

    c) Incidence is defined as the percentage of mice that displayed any signs of clinical disease.

γδ TCR−/−+WT γδ T cells (n=4)12.5d55.6100
γδ TCR−/−+CD11a−/− (n=4)11.7d59.3100
γδ TCR−/−+WT γδ T cells (n=6)13.8d47100
γδ TCR−/−+CD11b−/− (n=9)11.5d48100
γδ TCR−/−+WT γδ T cells (n=8)14.4d47.8100
γδ TCR−/−+CD11c−/− (n=5)13.6d49.5100

IFN-γ and TNF-α produced by γδ T cells are critical for full development of EAE

Several studies have shown that γδ T cells produce IFN-γ and TNF-α in the spinal cord during EAE 12–15, 37. To determine if this production is critical to the development of EAE we reconstituted γδ T cell−/− mice with IFN-γ−/− or TNF-α−/− γδ T cells. Reconstitution with IFN-γ−/− γδ T cells resulted in a significantly reduced (p<0.0001, Wilcoxon signed rank test) and delayed (p=0.04, unpaired T-test) clinical disease course compared to reconstitution to WT γδ T cells (Fig. 5A). The CDI and incidence rate was markedly lower in the IFN-γ−/− reconstituted mice than in mice reconstituted with WT γδ T cells (Table 3). Reconstitution with TNF-α−/− γδ T cells also failed to induce fulminant EAE (Fig. 5B, p<0.0004, Wilcoxon signed rank test), with a similar reduction in CDI and incidence rate compared with mice reconstituted with WT γδ T cells (Table 3). These data indicate that IFN-γ and TNF-α production by γδ T cells is critical for the development of severe EAE, particularly in the chronic phase of disease.

Figure 5.

IFN-γ and TNF-α produced by γδ T cells are critical to clinical disease severity in active EAE. (A) γδ T cell−/− mice were reconstituted with WT (n=7, filled circles), or IFN-γ−/− γδ T cells (n=9, open circles), active EAE was induced, and signs of disease monitored for 30 days as described in the Materials and methods. Disease onset was significantly delayed (p=0.046; unpaired t-test) and overall severity was reduced (p=0.0001; Wilcoxon signed rank test) on reconstitution with IFN-γ−/− γδ T cells. (B) It is the same as (A) except γδ T cell−/− mice were reconstituted with WT (filled circles, n=5) or TNF-α−/− γδ T cells (open circles, n=5) and followed by active EAE induction. Disease severity was significantly lower in γδ T cell−/− mice reconstituted with TNF-α−/− γδ T cells (p=0.0004. Wilcoxon signed rank test). The mean±SEM from two independent experiments are shown. Where not visible, errors bars are contained within the symbol.

Table 3. EAE in γδ T-cell-deficient mice reconstituted with cytokine-deficient γδ T cells
 Onseta)CDIb)Incidence (%)c)
  • a)

    a) Disease onset is the first of 2 consecutive days with a clinical score of 2 or more.

  • b)

    b) CDI is the mean sum of daily clinical scores from day 0 to 30.

  • c)

    c) Incidence is defined as the percentage of mice that displayed any signs of clinical disease.

γδ TCR−/−+WT γδ T cells (n=5)14.6d52.6100
γδ TCR−/−+TNF-α−/− (n=5)14.3d36.480
γδ TCR−/−+WT γδ T cells (n=7)13d62.2100
γδ TCR−/−+IFN-γ−/− (n=9)14.7d31.4578

Discussion

The results we report here indicate that γδ T cells play a critical role early in the development of EAE. We visualized γδ T-cell trafficking in vivo during active EAE using bioluminescence and observed that γδ T cells rapidly accumulated at the site of MOG peptide immunization after disease induction and underwent massive expansion between days 3 and 6. Based on imaging, γδ T cells did not migrate to and expand in the spleen and other secondary lymphoid organs to any significant degree, with the exception of the cervical lymph nodes at day 3 post induction of EAE and the brachial lymph nodes at day 9. These data demonstrate that γδ T cells, like CD4+ T cells 38–41, drain to cervical nodes and raise the possibility that brachial lymph nodes may also serve as a draining lymph node for the CNS, at least for γδ T cells. Expansion of γδ T cells continued at the site of MOG injection up to day 11 post induction of EAE; however, by day 13 there was marked decline in expansion. Interestingly, we observed similar but delayed kinetics of γδ T-cell trafficking to the CNS. γδ T cells entered the sacral region of the spinal cord and the cerebellum of the brain by day 6, trafficked throughout the parenchyma of the spinal cord and brain peaking between days 10 and 12 and then rapidly declined by day 15 in all tissues. These kinetics are consistent with γδ T cells playing an important role in demyelinating disease well before clinical signs of disease and when few CD4 and CD8 T cells have reached the CNS 15, most likely in priming events important for acute disease development.

The dramatic expansion of γδ T cells at the site of MOG peptide injection raises questions regarding priming events for these cells in demeylinating disease. Proteins from mycobacterium tuberculosis (MT), a component of the adjuvant used to induce EAE, are potent antigens for γδ T cells 42. More recently it has been shown that the expansion of γδ T cells seen after the induction of experimental autoimmune uveitis can be attributed to the MT in the adjuvant and the pertussis toxin injected at the time of immunization 30. Taken together, these observations suggest that the MT and pertussis toxin used to induce EAE may be in large part responsible for the localization, activation and proliferation of the γδ T cells, at the site of immunization. However, the rapid entry of γδ T cells into the CNS may suggest that some of the γδ T cells expanding at the immunization site are antigen-specific and directed toward the MOG35–55 peptide, but this remains to be shown. Antigen-specific CD4+ T cells have also been shown to migrate to MOG peptide injection sites 43. However, in this model system MOG-specific T cells were adoptively transferred into mice with an ongoing Mycobacterium bovis infection making it difficult to determine if CD4+ T cells normally traffic to the MOG emulsion. In our hands, naïve αβ T cells did not traffic to the injection site (data not shown) suggesting that the trafficking observed by Sewell and colleagues is activation-dependent or, given the nature of their model system, that γδ T cells are unique among T-cell subsets in trafficking to the MOG injection site.

The β2-integrin family of adhesion molecules plays an important role in the development of EAE 33–36. Deletion of CD11a, CD11b or CD11c results in significantly delayed and attenuated disease due, in part, to reduced trafficking of T cells to the CNS. It has recently been shown that β2-integrins are differentially expressed on αβ and γδ T cells throughout EAE 15, but it is unclear how deletion of any one of the β2-integrins on γδ T cells contributes to disease development and progression. To answer this question we performed reconstitution experiments in which γδ T cells, deficient in CD11a, CD11b or CD11c, were transferred to γδ T cell−/− mice. To our surprise all of the β2-integrin mutant γδ T cells were able to restore disease severity comparable to that seen in reconstitutions using WT γδ T cells. These data indicate that the disease phenotypes seen in β2-integrin-deficient mice during EAE are independent of γδ T-cell-mediated expression of β2-integrins. Previous studies have demonstrated that anti-LFA-1 antibodies prevented the adhesion of γδ T cells to endothelial monolayers in vitro16, 17. Such studies do not however sufficiently replicate in vivo events during EAE and specific targeting of γδ T cells with anti-LFA-1 antibodies during disease would be technically challenging. Our bioluminescent data clearly demonstrated that LFA-1−/− γδ T cells trafficked to the sites of MOG injection and expanded in a fashion comparable to that of WT γδ T cells. Despite these initial similarities, LFA-1−/− γδ T cells were either not retained at the MOG injections sites or had altered proliferation kinetics compared with WT γδ T cells based on the rapid clearance (compared with WT γδ T cells) from the injection site. Although these data are consistent with activation deficits in LFA-1−/− γδ T cells, this seems unlikely since the clinical course of disease was not changed relative to WT γδ T cells. We cannot rule out the possibility that loss of a given β2-intergrin on γδ T cells is compensated for by other family members and/or that other adhesion molecules are utilized by γδ T cells for migration to priming sites and to the CNS. Our results suggest, a likely candidate for γδ T cell trafficking to the CNS may be VLA-4 based on studies in several inflammatory model systems 16, 17, 32, 44–46

IFN-γ is produced in the CNS during EAE by infiltrating T cells and thought to help drive early stages of the disease 47, 48. From a therapeutic point of view, IFN-γ is considered central to pathogenic and inflammatory mechanisms based on the results of clinical trials in which IFN-γ exacerbated disease 49, 50. However, IFN-γ may also help to regulate inflammation since IFN-γ−/− mice develop exacerbated, sometimes fatal EAE, during the chronic phase of disease 51–54. Previous studies have suggested that IFN-γ production by γδ T cells is not critical to disease development and progression; γδ T cells were required solely for induction of IFN-γ by CD4 and CD8 T cells 14. Evidence supporting this potential mechanism was derived from quantitation of mRNA levels for IFN-γ in bone marrow chimeric mice reconstituted with γδ T cells derived from WT and IFN-γ−/− mice. Interpretation of these studies is complicated by the fact that neither were the IFN-γ protein levels assessed nor was the disease course monitored to allow correlation to IFN-γ production. In contrast, we found that the production of IFN-γ by γδ T cells is critical to EAE development. Reconstitution studies using congenic C57BL/6 mice (as opposed to mixed B6.129×B10.PL backgrounds) clearly demonstrated that IFN-γ production by γδ T cells contributes to disease onset and development. We cannot determine from our studies if γδ T-cell-mediated IFN-γ production modulated IFN-γ production by αβ T cells, but previous studies from our laboratory and others have demonstrated that before and during the acute phase of EAE, the majority of γδ T cells (70% or more) produce IFN-γ, while αβ T cells produce significantly less 14, 15. It is unclear whether IFN-γ and TNF-α produced by γδ T cells during EAE modulates trafficking of γδ T cells during disease. However, local production of these cytokines may alter adhesion molecule expression in a manner that affects T-cell trafficking to the CNS. These data suggest that IFN-γ production by γδ T cells may be central to initial inflammatory events during EAE.

TNF-α has also been shown to be an important cytokine in MS and EAE pathogenic mechanisms. TNF-α−/− mice are protected from EAE and transgenic mice expressing TNF-α in the CNS develop spontaneous neurodegenerative disease characterized by cellular inflammation and neuronal damage 55–58. These studies did not establish cellular subset production of TNF-α or correlate the corresponding functional role of TNF-α to that cell type in EAE. Likewise, in studies where γδ T cells were depleted by antibody treatment, TNF-α levels were markedly reduced, but which cells were producing TNF-α and how production by those cells modulated the disease course was not addressed 11. To overcome the technical limitations of γδ T-cell depletion, we performed reconstitution studies in which γδ T cell−/− mice were given TNF-α−/− γδ T cells and observed that TNF-α production by γδ T cells modulated the chronic phase of EAE. The disease phenotype in these reconstitutions was more severe than that observed for IFN-γ−/− γδ T-cell reconstitutions suggesting that TNF-α production by γδ T cells is not as crucial as IFN-γ to disease development and progression. Nonetheless, γδ T cells in the spinal cord during EAE are a significant source of TNF-α production, perhaps even the most significant source of this cytokine on a cellular basis 15. These results raise the possibility that TNF-α additively or synergistically acts in concert with IFN-γ to modulate early disease development.

γδ T cells are innate-like lymphocytes and it has been proposed that they may provide a link between the innate and adaptive immune response. It has recently been shown that activated murine γδ T cells can present MOG35–55 peptide to naïve CD4 T cells 30. γδ T cells also interact with dendritic cells driving their maturation through TNF-α and increasing IL-12 production by dendritic cells through IFN-γ-mediated mechanisms 13, 59–61. Antibody depletion of γδ T cells in EAE results in delayed cytokine and chemokine production in the CNS 10, 11, possibly by hindering the generation of the adaptive immune response normally augmented by γδ T cells. Our data suggest that local production of IFN-γ and/or TNF-α is important for dendritic cell maturation or programming that aids in initiating an immune response to myelin antigens. Concurrently, γδ T cells are also entering the CNS, and in situ production of IFN-γ and TNF-α may activate APC in the CNS and prime the microenvironment for CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell recruitment and activation. In this scenario, γδ T cells play a critical role in disease initiation that has largely been overlooked both mechanistically and therapeutically. Deletion of γδ T cells in demyelinating disease may be advantageous in that the αβ T-cell compartment would remain unaffected, thereby reducing the risk of therapeutically induced immunodeficiencies.

Materials and methods

Mice

Tcrdtm1Mom mice, deficient in γδ T cells, were obtained from Jackson laboratories. TNF-α−/− and IFN-γ−/− mice were generous gifts from Drs. David Chaplin and Alan Zajac (Department of Microbiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham), respectively. CD11a−/−, CD11b−/− and CD11c−/− mice have been previously described 62–64. For all studies, we used the β2-integrin-deficient mice at an N16 backcross onto C57BL/6. The luciferase transgenic mouse line (T-lux), expressing firefly luciferase under the control of the human CD2 promoter, was generated in the C57BL/6 background as previously described 65. T-lux mice express luciferase activity in all CD3+ cells and bioluminescence generated by this enzyme is directly proportional to the number of cells expressing the gene, allowing real-time assessment of T-cell proliferation and migration in vivo. For some experiments, LFA-1-deficient T-lux transgenic mice were generated by intercrossing the CD11a−/− and T-lux mice. Inbred T-lux transgenic or non-transgenic C57BL/6 mice were used as controls for all experiments. All studies were performed with approval from the UAB IACUC.

Bioluminescent imaging

Mice were subjected to bioluminescent imaging as previously described 65. Briefly, mice were anesthetized with isofluorane and placed in a light-tight chamber. The photographic (gray-scale) reference image was obtained at 10 min after D-luciferin injection; the bioluminescent image was collected immediately thereafter. Images were obtained with a CCD camera cooled to −120°C, using the IVIS Imaging System (Xenogen, Alameda, CA) with the field of view set at 10 cm height. The photographic images were taken at a 0.2 s exposure, 8 f/stop, 2 binning (resolution) and an open filter. The bioluminescent images used exposures of 600 s, 1 f/stop, 16 binning and open filter. The bioluminescent and gray-scale images were overlaid using Living Image software (Xenogen). Igor image analyses software (Wavemetrics, Lake Oswego, OR) was employed to obtain a pseudocolor image representing bioluminescence intensity (blue, least intense; red, most intense). The total counts were normalized to image acquisition. Ex vivo images were obtained by removal of brain and spinal cord and imaging at 3× magnification after treatment with the Luciferase Assay system (Promega). Localization of T-lux T cells in lymphoid tissue was verified by ex vivo imaging performed on representative mice. Expansion of T-lux T cells has been previously verified in studies demonstrating that cell number is directly proportional to bioluminescent signal 65.

Flow cytometry and intracellular cytokine staining

Cells obtained from draining lymph nodes, spleens and spinal cords were incubated with anti-CD16/32 (FcR block, eBioscience) to prevent non-specific staining. Cells were incubated for 30 min in the dark at 4°C with anti-γδ TCR FITC (GL3, BD Pharmingen). All antibodies were diluted in FACS buffer (1× PBS, 2% FBS, 0.1% NaN3). Immunofluorescence analyses were performed using a FACSCalibur and CellQuest software (BD Biosciences).

Reconstitution

γδ T cells were isolated from spleen, lymph nodes and thymus of WT, T-lux, CD11a−/−, LFA-1−/−/T-lux, CD11b−/−, CD11c−/−, TNF-α−/− and IFN-γ−/− mice using the magnetic bead isolation kits from Miltenyi Biotech. γδ T cells (5×105, >90% pure) were injected retro-orbitally into γδ T cell−/− mice. Active EAE was induced as described below 2 days after reconstitution.

Active EAE

For active EAE, control, γδ T-cell-deficient, and reconstituted mice were immunized with MOG peptide35–55 (Biosynthesis, Lewisville, TX) as described previously 33. Onset and progression of EAE were monitored daily using a standard clinical scale ranging from 0 to 6 as follows: 0, asymptomatic; 1, loss of tail tone; 2, flaccid tail; 3, incomplete paralysis of one or two hind limbs; 4, complete hind limb paralysis; 5, moribund and 6, death. Only mice with a score of at least 2 (flaccid tail) for more than 2 consecutive days were judged to have EAE. For each animal CDI was calculated from the sum of the daily clinical scores observed between day 0 and day 30.

Statistical analysis

Statistical significance for the bioluminescent images was measured using Anova with Tukey's post-test. Clinical disease courses were analyzed using Wilcoxon signed rank test and disease onset was analyzed using Student's t-test.

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the support of the Multi-Modality Imaging Facility and Dr. Kari Dugger for help with the imaging. This work was supported by grants from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (RG 3437-B-9) to S.R.B. and D.C.B. and from the National Institutes of Health (T32 AI07051) to S.S.S. and J.E.W.

Conflict of interest: The authors declare no financial or commercial conflict of interest.

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