Multiple sclerosis (MS) and its animal model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), are inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system (CNS) characterized by localized areas of demyelination. The mechanisms underlying oligodendrocyte (OLG) injury in MS and EAE remain unknown. Here we show that caspase-11 plays crucial roles in OLG death and pathogenesis in EAE. Caspase-11 and activated caspase-3 were both expressed in OLGs in spinal cord EAE lesions. OLGs from caspase-11-deficient mice were highly resistant to the cell death induced by cytotoxic cytokines. EAE susceptibility and cytokine concentrations in the CNS were significantly reduced in caspase-11-deficient mice. Our findings suggest that OLG death is mediated by a pathway that involves caspases-11 and -3 and leads to the demyelination observed in EAE.
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