Teriflunomide Promotes Oligodendroglial 8,9-Unsaturated Sterol Accumulation and CNS Remyelination

Background and Objectives

To test whether low concentrations of teriflunomide (TF) could promote remyelination, we investigate the effect of TF on oligodendrocyte in culture and on remyelination in vivo in 2 demyelinating models.

Methods

The effect of TF on oligodendrocyte precursor cell (OPC) proliferation and differentiation was assessed in vitro in glial cultures derived from neonatal mice and confirmed on fluorescence-activated cell sorting–sorted adult OPCs. The levels of the 8,9-unsaturated sterols lanosterol and zymosterol were quantified in TF- and sham-treated cultures. In vivo, TF was administered orally, and remyelination was assessed both in myelin basic protein–GFP-nitroreductase (Mbp:GFP-NTR) transgenic Xenopus laevis demyelinated by metronidazole and in adult mice demyelinated by lysolecithin.

Results

In cultures, low concentrations of TF down to 10 nM decreased OPC proliferation and increased their differentiation, an effect that was also detected on adult OPCs. Oligodendrocyte differentiation induced by TF was abrogated by the oxidosqualene cyclase inhibitor Ro 48-8071 and was mediated by the accumulation of zymosterol. In the demyelinated tadpole, TF enhanced the regeneration of mature oligodendrocytes up to 2.5-fold. In the mouse demyelinated spinal cord, TF promoted the differentiation of newly generated oligodendrocytes by a factor of 1.7-fold and significantly increased remyelination.

Discussion

TF enhances zymosterol accumulation in oligodendrocytes and CNS myelin repair, a beneficial off-target effect that should be investigated in patients with multiple sclerosis.

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