The role of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and its receptors in neuroautoimmune and neuroinflammatory diseases has been controversial. On the basis of our previous studies, we hereby aimed to further clarify TNF-α's mechanism of action and to explore the potential role of TNF-α receptor (TNFR)1 as a therapeutic target in experimental autoimmune neuritis (EAN). EAN was induced by immunization with P0 peptide 180-199 in TNF-α knockout (KO) mice and anti-TNFR1 antibodies were used to treat EAN. Particularly, the effects of TNF-α deficiency and TNFR1 blockade on macrophage functions were investigated. The onset of EAN in TNF-α KO mice was markedly later than that in wild type (WT) mice. From day 14 post immunization, the clinical signs of TNF-α KO mice were significantly milder than those of their WT counterparts. Further, we showed that the clinical severity of WT mice treated with anti-TNFR1 antibodies was less severe than that of the control WT mice receiving PBS. Nevertheless, no difference with regard to the clinical signs of EAN or inflammatory infiltration in cauda equina was seen between TNF-α KO and WT mice with EAN after blockade of TNFR1. Although TNF-α deficiency did not alter the proliferation of lymphocytes in response to either antigenic or mitogenic stimuli, it down-regulated the production of interleukin (IL)-12 and nitric oxide (NO), and enhanced the production of IL-10 in macrophages. Increased ratio of regulatory T cells (Tregs) and reduced production of interferon (IFN)-γ in cauda equina infiltrating cells, and elevated levels of IgG2b antibodies against P0 peptide 180-199 in sera were found in TNF-α KO mice with EAN. In conclusion, TNF-α deficiency attenuates EAN via altering the M1/M2 balance of macrophages.
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