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Homotaurine, a safe blood-brain barrier permeable GABAA-R-specific agonist, ameliorates disease in mouse models of multiple sclerosis


There is a need for treatments that can safely promote regulatory lymphocyte responses. T cells express GABA receptors (GABAA-Rs) and GABA administration can inhibit Th1-mediated processes such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis in mouse models. Whether GABAA-R agonists can also inhibit Th17-driven processes such as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a model of multiple sclerosis (MS), is an open question. GABA does not pass through the blood-brain barrier (BBB) making it ill-suited to inhibit the spreading of autoreactivity within the CNS. Homotaurine is a BBB-permeable amino acid that antagonizes amyloid fibril formation and was found to be safe but ineffective in long-term Alzheimer's disease clinical trials. Homotaurine also acts as GABAA-R agonist with better pharmacokinetics than that of GABA. Working with both monophasic and relapsing-remitting mouse models of EAE, we show that oral administration of homotaurine can (1) enhance CD8+CD122+PD-1+ and CD4+Foxp3+ Treg, but not Breg, responses, (2) inhibit autoreactive Th17 and Th1 responses, and (3) effectively ameliorate ongoing disease. These observations demonstrate the potential of BBB-permeable GABAA-R agonists as a new class of treatment to enhance CD8+ and CD4+ Treg responses and limit Th17 and Th1-medaited inflammation in the CNS.

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