Dimethyl fumarate is an oral formulation of the fumaric acid ester that is Food and Drug Administration approved for treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. To better understand the therapeutic effects of Tecfidera and its rare side effect of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, we conducted cross-sectional and longitudinal studies by immunophenotyping cells from peripheral blood (particularly T lymphocytes) derived from untreated and 4-6 and 18-26 mo Tecfidera-treated stable relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients using multiparametric flow cytometry. The absolute numbers of CD4 and CD8 T cells were significantly decreased and the CD4/CD8 ratio was increased with DMF treatment. The proportions of both effector memory T cells and central memory T cells were reduced, whereas naive T cells increased in treated patients. T cell activation was reduced with DMF treatment, especially among effector memory T cells and effector memory RA T cells. Th subsets Th1 (CXCR3+), Th17 (CCR6+), and particularly those expressing both CXCR3 and CD161 were reduced most significantly, whereas the anti-inflammatory Th2 subset (CCR3+) was increased after DMF treatment. A corresponding increase in IL-4 and decrease in IFN-γ and IL-17-expressing CD4+ T cells were observed in DMF-treated patients. DMF in vitro treatment also led to increased T cell apoptosis and decreased activation, proliferation, reactive oxygen species, and CCR7 expression. Our results suggest that DMF acts on specific memory and effector T cell subsets by limiting their survival, proliferation, activation, and cytokine production. Monitoring these subsets could help to evaluate the efficacy and safety of DMF treatment.
Gross CC, Schulte-Mecklenbeck A, Klinsing S, Posevitz-Fejfár A, Wiendl H, Klotz L.Dimethyl fumarate treatment alters circulating T helper cell subsets in multiple sclerosis. Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2015 Dec 10;3(1):e183.