Increased carbonylation, protein aggregation and apoptosis in the spinal cord of mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.
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Previous work from our laboratory implicated protein carbonylation in the pathophysiology of both MS (multiple sclerosis) and its animal model EAE (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis). Subsequent in vitro studies revealed that the accumulation of protein carbonyls, triggered by glutathione deficiency or proteasome inhibition, leads to protein aggregation and neuronal cell death. These findings prompted us to investigate whether their association can be also established in vivo. In the present study, we characterized protein carbonylation, protein aggregation and apoptosis along the spinal cord during the course of MOG (myelin-oligodendrocyte glycoprotein)(35-55) peptide-induced EAE in C57BL/6 mice. The results show that protein carbonyls accumulate throughout the course of the disease, albeit by different mechanisms: increased oxidative stress in acute EAE and decreased proteasomal activity in chronic EAE. We also show a temporal correlation between protein carbonylation (but not oxidative stress) and apoptosis. Furthermore, carbonyl levels are significantly higher in apoptotic cells than in live cells. A high number of juxta-nuclear and cytoplasmic protein aggregates containing the majority of the oxidized proteins are present during the course of EAE. The LC3 (microtubule-associated protein light chain 3)-II/LC3-I ratio is significantly reduced in both acute and chronic EAE indicating reduced autophagy and explaining why aggresomes accumulate in this disorder. Taken together, the results of the present study suggest a link between protein oxidation and neuronal/glial cell death in vivo, and also demonstrate impaired proteostasis in this widely used murine model of MS.