Biological aging is the strongest factor associated with the clinical phenotype of multiple sclerosis (MS). Relapsing-remitting MS typically presents in the third or fourth decade, whereas the mean age of presentation of progressive MS (PMS) is 45 years old. Here, we show that experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), induced by the adoptive transfer of encephalitogenic CD4+ Th17 cells, was more severe, and less likely to remit, in middle-aged compared with young adult mice. Donor T cells and neutrophils were more abundant, while B cells were relatively sparse, in CNS infiltrates of the older mice. Experiments with reciprocal bone marrow chimeras demonstrated that radio-resistant, nonhematopoietic cells played a dominant role in shaping age-dependent features of the neuroinflammatory response, as well as the clinical course, during EAE. Reminiscent of PMS, EAE in middle-aged adoptive transfer recipients was characterized by widespread microglial activation. Microglia from older mice expressed a distinctive transcriptomic profile suggestive of enhanced chemokine synthesis and antigen presentation. Collectively, our findings suggest that drugs that suppress microglial activation, and acquisition or expression of aging-associated properties, may be beneficial in the treatment of progressive forms of inflammatory demyelinating disease.
Jeffrey R. Atkinson, Andrew D. Jerome, Andrew R. Sas, Ashley Munie, Cankun Wang, Anjun Ma, William D. Arnold, Benjamin M. Segal