• apoptosis;
  • encephalitogenicity;
  • experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis;
  • inflammation;
  • myelin basic protein-specific T cells


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a T-cell mediated autoimmune disease of the CNS, possessing both immune and neurodegenerative events that lead to disability. Adoptive transfer (AT) of myelin basic protein (MBP)-specific T cells into naïve female SJL/J mice results in a relapsing–remitting (RR) form of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Blocking the mechanisms by which MBP-specific T cells are activated before AT may help characterize the immune arm of MS and offer novel targets for therapy. One such target is calpain, which is involved in activation of T cells, migration of immune cells into the CNS, degradation of axonal and myelin proteins, and neuronal apoptosis. Thus, the hypothesis that inhibiting calpain in MBP-specific T cells would diminish their encephalitogenicity in RR-EAE mice was tested. Incubating MBP-specific T cells with the calpain inhibitor SJA6017 before AT markedly suppressed the ability of these T cells to induce clinical symptoms of RR-EAE. These reductions correlated with decreases in demyelination, inflammation, axonal damage, and loss of oligodendrocytes and neurons. Also, calpain : calpastatin ratio, production of truncated Bid, and Bax : Bcl-2 ratio, and activities of calpain and caspases, and internucleosomal DNA fragmentation were attenuated. Thus, these data suggest calpain as a promising target for treating EAE and MS.