Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) has been used as an animal model of multiple sclerosis to identify pathogenic cytokines that could be therapeutic targets. Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) is the only cytokine reported to be essential for EAE. We investigated the role of GM-CSF in EAE in C3HeB/FeJ mice that uniquely exhibit extensive brain and spinal cord inflammation. Unexpectedly, GM-CSF–deficient C3HeB/FeJ mice were fully susceptible to EAE because IL-17 activity compensated for the loss of GM-CSF during induction of spinal cord–targeted disease. In contrast, both GM-CSF and IL-17 were needed to fully overcome the inhibitory influence of IFN-γ on the induction of inflammation in the brain. Both GM-CSF and IL-17 independently promoted neutrophil accumulation in the brain, which was essential for brain-targeted disease. These results identify a GM-CSF/IL-17/IFN-γ axis that regulates inflammation in the central nervous system and suggest that a combination of cytokine-neutralizing therapies may be needed to dampen central nervous system autoimmunity.
Emily R. Pierson, Joan M. Goverman