There is compelling evidence that oligodendrocyte apoptosis, in response to CNS inflammation, contributes significantly to the development of the demyelinating disorder multiple sclerosis and its animal model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Therefore, approaches designed to protect oligodendrocytes would likely have therapeutic value. Activation of pancreatic endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) signaling in response to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress increases cell survival under various cytotoxic conditions. Moreover, there is evidence that PERK signaling is activated in oligodendrocytes within demyelinating lesions in multiple sclerosis and EAE. Our previous study demonstrated that CNS delivery of the inflammatory cytokine interferon-γ before EAE onset protected mice against EAE, and this protection was dependent on PERK signaling. In our current study, we sought to elucidate the role ofPERKsignaling in oligodendrocytes during EAE.Wegenerated transgenic mice that allow for temporally controlled activation ofPERK signaling, in the absence of ER stress, specifically in oligodendrocytes.Wedemonstrated that persistent activation of PERK signaling was not deleterious to oligodendrocyte viability or the myelin of adult animals. Importantly, we found that enhanced activation of PERK signaling specifically in oligodendrocytes significantly attenuated EAE disease severity, which was associated with reduced oligodendrocyte apoptosis, demyelination, and axonal degeneration. This effect was not the result of an altered degree of the inflammatory response in EAE mice. Our results provide direct evidence that activation of PERK signaling in oligodendrocytes is cytoprotective, protecting mice against EAE.
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