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Behrangi, Newshan; Heinig, Leo; Frintrop, Linda; Santrau, Emily; Kurth, Jens; Krause, Bernd; Atanasova, Dimitrinka; Clarner, Tim; Fragoulis, Athanassios; Joksch, Markus; Rudolf, Henrik; Meuth, Sven G.; Joost, Sarah and Kipp, Markus (2022): Siponimod ameliorates metabolic oligodendrocyte injury via the sphingosine-1 phosphate receptor 5. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 119, No. 40, e2204509119

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Multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune-driven, inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS), causes irreversible accumulation of neurological deficits to a variable extent. Although there are potent disease-modifying agents for its initial relapsing-remitting phase, immunosuppressive therapies show limited efficacy in secondary progressive MS (SPMS). Although modulation of sphingosine-1 phosphate receptors has proven beneficial during SPMS, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. In this project, we followed the hypothesis that siponimod, a sphingosine-1 phosphate receptor modulator, exerts protective effects by direct modulation of glia cell function (i.e., either astrocytes, microglia, or oligodendrocytes). To this end, we used the toxin-mediated, nonautoimmune MS animal model of cuprizone (Cup) intoxication. On the histological level, siponimod ameliorated cuprizone-induced oligodendrocyte degeneration, demyelination, and axonal injury. Protective effects were evident as well using GE180 translocator protein 18-kDa (TSPO) imaging with positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) imaging or next generation sequencing (NGS). Siponimod also ameliorated the cuprizone-induced pathologies in Rag1-deficient mice, demonstrating that the protection is independent of T and B cell modulation. Proinflammatory responses in primary mixed astrocytes/microglia cell cultures were not modulated by siponimod, suggesting that other cell types than microglia and astrocytes are targeted. Of note, siponimod completely lost its protective effects in S1pr5-deficient mice, suggesting direct protection of degenerating oligodendrocytes. Our study demonstrates that siponimod exerts protective effects in the brain in a S1PR5-dependent manner. This finding is not just relevant in the context of MS but in other neuropathologies as well, characterized by a degeneration of the axon-myelin unit.

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