Tolerogenic bone marrow-derived dendritic cells induce neuroprotective regulatory T cells in a model of Parkinson's disease

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26 Scopus citations


Background: Administration of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) increases regulatory T cell (Treg) number and function with control of neuroinflammation and neuronal protection in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) model of Parkinson's disease (PD). Recently, we demonstrated in an early phase 1 clinical trial that GM-CSF also improves motor skills in PD patients. However, the mechanisms of Treg induction and its effects on neuroprotective responses remain unknown. As GM-CSF induces tolerogenic dendritic cells (DCs) that in turn convert conventional T cells to Tregs, the pathways for DC induction of Tregs were assessed. Methods: Following differentiation, bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs) were cultured in media or GM-CSF with or without post-culture stimulation with nitrated α-synuclein (N-α-Syn). Expression of cell surface co-stimulatory molecules and proinflammatory cytokines, and induction of Tregs were evaluated. The neuroprotective capacity of tolerogenic BMDCs was assessed by adoptive transfer to MPTP-intoxicated mice. The extent of neuroinflammation and numbers of surviving dopaminergic neurons were assessed in relation to Treg numbers. Results: Co-culture of differentiated BMDCs with conventional T cells led to Treg induction. Stimulation of BMDCs with N-α-Syn increased expression of co-stimulatory molecules and proinflammatory cytokines, with modest increases in Treg numbers. In contrast, continued culture of BMDCs with GM-CSF modestly altered expression of co-stimulatory molecules and proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, but decreased Treg induction. Continued culture in GM-CSF and combined stimulation with N-α-Syn reduced Treg induction to the lowest levels. Adoptive transfer of tolerogenic BMDCs to MPTP-intoxicated mice increased splenic Tregs, attenuated neuroinflammatory responses, and protected nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons. Conclusions: GM-CSF acts broadly to differentiate DCs and affect immune transformation from effector to regulatory immune responses. DCs skew such immune responses by increasing Treg numbers and activities that serve to attenuate proinflammatory responses and augment neuroprotection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalMolecular neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 21 2018


  • DCs
  • Dendritic cells
  • MPTP
  • Mice
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Regulatory T cells
  • Tregs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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