We aimed to elucidate the effects of iguratimod, a widely used anti-rheumatic drug with no severe side effects, on chronic experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS). Iguratimod was orally administered to mice immunised with myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein peptide 35-55. Preventive administration of iguratimod from the time of immunisation was found to markedly reduce the clinical severity of acute and chronic EAE. Pathologically, iguratimod treatment significantly reduced demyelination and infiltration of CD3 + T, F4/80 + , and CD169 + cells into the spinal cord, and suppressed macrophage/microglia activation in the parenchyma at the acute and chronic stages compared with vehicle treatment. Therapeutic administration of iguratimod after the onset of clinical symptoms significantly ameliorated the clinical severity of chronic EAE and reduced demyelination, T helper (Th)1/Th17 cell infiltration, macrophage/microglia activation, and nuclear factor (NF)-κB p65 and cyclooxygenase-2 expression in the spinal cord. In vitro, iguratimod treatment inhibited nuclear translocation of NF-κB p65 and down-regulated pro-inflammatory responses in macrophages and microglia. Our results suggest that iguratimod ameliorates acute and chronic EAE by suppressing inflammatory cell infiltration and immune cell activation, partly through inhibition of NF-κB p65, supporting the therapeutic potential of this drug for not only acute, but also chronic MS.
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