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N-acetylglucosamine inhibits T-helper 1 (Th1)/T-helper 17 (Th17) cell responses and treats experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.


Current treatments and emerging oral therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS) are limited by effectiveness, cost, and/or toxicity. Genetic and environmental factors that alter the branching of Asn (N)-linked glycans result in T cell hyperactivity, promote spontaneous inflammatory demyelination and neurodegeneration in mice, and converge to regulate the risk of MS. The sugar N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) enhances N-glycan branching and inhibits T cell activity and adoptive transfer experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Here, we report that oral GlcNAc inhibits T-helper 1 (Th1) and T-helper 17 (Th17) responses and attenuates the clinical severity of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-induced EAE when administered after disease onset. Oral GlcNAc increased expression of branched N-glycans in T cells in vivo as shown by high pH anion exchange chromatography, MALDI-TOF mass spectroscopy and FACS analysis with the plant lectin l-phytohemagglutinin. Initiating oral GlcNAc treatment on the second day of clinical disease inhibited MOG-induced EAE as well as secretion of interferon-γ, tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-17, and interleukin-22. In the more severe 2D2 T cell receptor transgenic EAE model, oral GlcNAc initiated after disease onset also inhibits clinical disease, except for those with rapid lethal progression. These data suggest that oral GlcNAc may provide an inexpensive and nontoxic oral therapeutic agent for MS that directly targets an underlying molecular mechanism causal of disease.

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