Role of autophagy in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis

Peizhou Liang, Weidong Le

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Autophagy plays an important role in maintaining the cellular homeostasis. One of its functions is to degrade unnecessary organelles and proteins for energy recycling or amino-acids for cell survival. Ablation of autophagy leads to neurodegeneration. Multiple sclerosis (MS), a permanent neurological impairment typical of chronic inflammatory demyelinating disorder, is an auto-immune disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Autophagy is tightly linked to the innate and adaptive immune systems during the autoimmune process, and several studies have shown that autophagy directly participates in the progress of MS or experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE, a mouse model of MS). Dysfunction of mitochondria that intensively influences the autophagy pathway is one of the important factors in the pathogenesis of MS. Autophagy-related gene (ATG) 5 and immune-related GTPase M (IRGM) 1 are increased, while ATG16L2 is decreased, in T-cells in EAE and active relapsing-remitting MS brains. Administration of rapamycin, an inhibitor of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), ameliorates relapsing-remitting EAE. Inflammation and oxidative stress are increased in MS lesions and EAE, but Lamp2 and the LC3-II/LC3-I ratio are decreased. Furthermore, autophagy in various glial cells plays important roles in regulating neuro-inflammation in the CNS, implying potential roles in MS. In this review, we discuss the role of autophagy in the peripheral immune system and the CNS in neuroinflammation associated with the pathogenesis of MS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-444
Number of pages10
JournalNeuroscience Bulletin
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 11 2015


  • autophagy
  • multiple sclerosis
  • neuro-inflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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