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Aarts, Suzanne A. B. M.; Seijkens, Tom T. P.; Kusters, Pascal J. H.; Pol, Susanne M. A. van der; Zarzycka, Barbara; Heijnen, Priscilla D. A. M.; Beckers, Linda; Toom, Myrthe den; Gijbels, Marion J. J.; Boon, Louis; Weber, Christian; Vries, Helga E. de; Nicolaes, Gerry A. F.; Dijkstra, Christine D.; Kooij, Gijs and Lutgens, Esther (2017): Inhibition of CD40-TRAF6 interactions by the small molecule inhibitor 6877002 reduces neuroinflammation. In: Journal of Neuroinflammation 14:105 [PDF, 3MB]

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Background: The influx of leukocytes into the central nervous system (CNS) is a key hallmark of the chronic neuro-inflammatory disease multiple sclerosis (MS). Strategies that aim to inhibit leukocyte migration across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) are therefore regarded as promising therapeutic approaches to combat MS. As the CD40L-CD40 dyad signals via TNF receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) in myeloid cells to induce inflammation and leukocyte trafficking, we explored the hypothesis that specific inhibition of CD40-TRAF6 interactions can ameliorate neuro-inflammation. Methods: Human monocytes were treated with a small molecule inhibitor (SMI) of CD40-TRAF6 interactions (6877002), and migration capacity across human brain endothelial cells was measured. To test the therapeutic potential of the CD40-TRAF6-blocking SMI under neuro-inflammatory conditions in vivo, Lewis rats and C57BL/6J mice were subjected to acute experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) and treated with SMI 6877002 for 6 days (rats) or 3 weeks (mice). Results: We here show that a SMI of CD40-TRAF6 interactions (6877002) strongly and dose-dependently reduces trans-endothelial migration of human monocytes. Moreover, upon SMI treatment, monocytes displayed a decreased production of ROS, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and interleukin (IL)-6, whereas the production of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 was increased. Disease severity of EAE was reduced upon SMI treatment in rats, but not in mice. However, a significant reduction in monocyte-derived macrophages, but not in T cells, that had infiltrated the CNS was eminent in both models. Conclusions: Together, our results indicate that SMI-mediated inhibition of the CD40-TRAF6 pathway skews human monocytes towards anti-inflammatory cells with reduced trans-endothelial migration capacity, and is able to reduce CNS-infiltrated monocyte-derived macrophages during neuro-inflammation, but minimally ameliorates EAE disease severity. We therefore conclude that SMI-mediated inhibition of the CD40-TRAF6 pathway may represent a beneficial treatment strategy to reduce monocyte recruitment and macrophage activation in the CNS and has the potential to be used as a co-treatment to combat MS.

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