BACKGROUND:Dimethyl fumarate is an immunomodulatory and neuroprotective drug, approved recently for the treatment of relapsing-remittingmultiple sclerosis. In view of the limited therapeutic options for human acute and chronic polyneuritis, we used the animal model of experimental autoimmune neuritis in the Lewis rat to study the effects of dimethyl fumarate on autoimmune inflammation and neuroprotection in the peripheral nervous system.
METHODS AND FINDINGS:Experimental autoimmune neuritis was induced by immunization with the neuritogenic peptide (amino acids 53-78) of P2 myelin protein. Preventive treatment with dimethyl fumarate given at 45 mg/kg twice daily by oral gavage significantly ameliorated clinical neuritis by reducing demyelination and axonal degeneration in the nerve conduction studies. Histology revealed a significantly lower degree of inflammatory infiltrates in the sciatic nerves. In addition, we detected a reduction of early signs of axonal degeneration through a reduction of amyloid precursor protein expressed in axons of the peripheral nerves. This reduction correlated with an increase of nuclear factor (erythroid derived 2)-related factor 2 positive axons, supporting the neuroprotective potential of dimethyl fumarate. Furthermore, nuclear factor (erythroid derived 2)-related factor 2 expression in Schwann cells was only rarely detected and there was no increase of Schwann cells death during EAN.
We conclude that immunmodulatory and neuroprotective dimethyl fumarate may represent an innovative therapeutic option in human autoimmune neuropathies.