Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune, neurodegenerative disorder with a strong genetic component that acts in a complex interaction with environmental factors for disease development. CD4 + T cells are pivotal players in MS pathogenesis, where peripherally activated T cells migrate to the central nervous system leading to demyelination and axonal degeneration. Through a proteomic approach, we aim at identifying dysregulated pathways in activated T cells from MS patients as compared to healthy controls.
Methods: CD4 + T cells were purified from peripheral blood from MS patients and healthy controls by magnetic separation. Cells were left unstimulated or stimulated in vitro through the TCR and costimulatory CD28 receptor for 24 hours prior to sampling. Electrospray liquid chromatographytandem mass spectrometry was used to measure protein abundances.
Results: Upon T cell activation the abundance of 1,801 proteins was changed. Among these proteins, we observed an enrichment of proteins expressed by MS-susceptibility genes. When comparing protein abundances in T cell samples from healthy controls and MS patients, 18 and 33 proteins were differentially expressed in unstimulated and stimulated CD4 + T cells, respectively. Moreover, 353 and 304 proteins were identified as proteins exclusively induced upon T cell activation in healthy controls and MS patients, respectively and dysregulation of the Nur77 pathway was observed only in samples from MS patients.
Conclusions: Our study highlights the importance of CD4 + T cell activation for MS, as proteins that change in abundance upon T cell activation are enriched for proteins encoded by MS susceptibility genes. The results provide evidence for proteomic disturbances in T cell activation in MS, and pinpoint to dysregulation of the Nur77 pathway, a biological pathway known to limit aberrant effector T cell responses.