B7-1 and B7-2 are well characterized costimulatory ligands on Ag presentation cells for the CD28 and CTLA4 receptors on T cells. The fusion protein CTLA4Ig can block this interaction and prevent specific T cell activation. The development of fatal CD4+ T cell-mediated experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) in susceptible female Lewis rats was optimized by immunization with 20 mg of guinea pig spinal cord homogenate in CFA on day 0 with three doses of 1 microgram pertussis toxin given i.v. on days 0, 3, and 7. This immunization regimen uniformly resulted in the development of severe clinical neurologic signs of EAE with 100% mortality by day 17 postimmunization. Treatment with 0.5 mg/dose of rhCTLA4-Ig on days - 2, 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 significantly decreased the incidence, delayed the onset, and reduced the severity of clinical EAE (p = 0.0002 vs control by the Mann-Whitney U test) enough to completely prevent fatal EAE, whereas treatment with control human IgG had no effect. Histologically, perivascular neutrophilic infiltrates were also dramatically decreased in the spinal cords of animals treated with CTLA4 but not in those treated with control human IgG. The proliferative response to encephalitogenic Ags (guinea pig myelin basic protein and proteolipid protein) by lymph node cells from animals immunized with guinea pig spinal cord 10 days before was also significantly suppressed in vitro by CTLA4Ig (1 microg/ml). However, the protective effect of CTLA4Ig could be completely prevented by the daily i.p. administration, from day 0 to 10, of exogenous human rIL-2 (180,000 IU). These results indicate a critical requirement of the costimulatory B7/CD28 pathway early in the development of CD4+ T cell-mediated EAE in the rat.

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