Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Targeting Antigen Presenting Cells to Treat Autoimmune Inflammation

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Version 3 2023-03-14, 23:25
Version 2 2023-03-13, 23:53
Version 1 2021-11-08, 23:55
posted on 2023-03-14, 23:25 authored by Toker, Aras

Glatiramer acetate (GA) is approved for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), and can suppress experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a murine model of human MS. GA treatment is associated with the induction of anti-inflammatory TH2 responses and with the antigen specific expansion of regulatory T cells that counteract or inhibit pathogenic events in MS and EAE. These T cell mediated mechanisms of protection are considered to be a result of modulation of antigen presenting cells (APCs) by GA, rather than direct effects on T cells. However, it is unknown if GA preferentially targets a specific APC subset or can act through multiple APCs in vivo. In addition, GA-modulated innate cells may also exhibit direct antigen non-specific suppression of autoreactive cells. One objective of this study was to identify the in vivo target cell population of GA and to assess the potential of the target cells to antigen non-specifically suppress immune responses. Fluorophor-labelled GA bound to monocytes after intravenous injections, suggesting that monocytes may be the primary target of GA in vivo. In addition, intravenous GA treatment enhanced the intrinsic ability of monocytes to suppress T cell proliferation, both in vitro and in vivo. The findings of this study therefore suggest that GA-induced monocytes may contribute to GA therapy through direct mechanisms of antigen non-specific T cell immunosuppression. A further objective of this work was to investigate the potential of an in vivo drug targeting approach. This approach was hypothesised to increase the uptake of GA by the target cells and substantially improve GA treatment through antigen specific mechanisms such as induction of TH2 or regulatory T cells. Targeting antigens to professional APCs with an anti-MHC class II antibody resulted in significantly enhanced T cell proliferation in vitro. However, no EAE suppression occurred when GA was targeted to MHC class II in vivo. In addition, targeting GA specifically to monocytes also failed to suppress EAE. These findings suggest that GA treatment may selectively modulate monocytes to enhance their ability to inhibit autoreactive T cells, which could be part of the mechanism by which GA ameliorates MS. Targeting GA to a specific cell type may not be a powerful approach to improve treatment, because increased proliferation of GA specific T cells is not sufficient for disease suppression, and conjugation to antibodies may functionally reduce GA to a mere antigen devoid of immunomodulatory capacity.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Cell and Molecular Bioscience

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Backstrom, Thomas