Inhibition of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase interferes with pathogenic B-cell development in inflammatory CNS demyelinating disease

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Abstract

Anti-CD20-mediated B-cell depletion effectively reduces acute multiple sclerosis (MS) flares. Recent data shows that antibody-mediated extinction of B cells as a lasting immune suppression, harbors the risk of developing humoral deficiencies over time. Accordingly, more selective, durable and reversible B-cell-directed MS therapies are needed. We here tested inhibition of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK), an enzyme centrally involved in B-cell receptor signaling, as the most promising approach in this direction. Using mouse models of MS, we determined that evobrutinib, the first BTK inhibiting molecule being developed, dose-dependently inhibited antigen-triggered activation and maturation of B cells as well as their release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Most importantly, evobrutinib treatment functionally impaired the capacity of B cells to act as antigen-presenting cells for the development of encephalitogenic T cells, resulting in a significantly reduced disease severity in mice. In contrast to anti-CD20, BTK inhibition silenced this key property of B cells in MS without impairing their frequency or functional integrity. In conjunction with a recent phase II trial reporting that evobrutinib is safe and effective in MS, our mechanistic data highlight therapeutic BTK inhibition as a landmark towards selectively interfering with MS-driving B-cell properties.

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