OBJECTIVE: We previously showed that the cerebellum modulates the immune system. Here we determined whether cerebellar ataxia alters immunological function to further demonstrate an involvement of the cerebellum in immune modulation.
METHODS: Neurotoxin 3-acetylpyridine (3-AP) was intraperitoneally injected in rats to induce cerebellar ataxia. Behavior and motor coordination were tested on day 7 following 3-AP injection. Nissl staining and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) were used to determine neuronal loss and neurotransmitter contents, respectively, in all the three cerebellar nuclei, fastigial nucleus (FN), interposed nucleus (IN) and dentate nucleus (DN). T and B lymphocyte differentiation and function were measured by flow cytometry, Western blot and ELISA.
RESULTS: 3-AP induced motor discoordination and locomotor reduction. In all the three cerebellar nuclei, FN, IN and DN, there was a neuronal loss and a decrease in contents of glutamate and GABA (but not glycine) after 3-AP injection. Importantly, CD4+ T cells, but not CD8+ T cells, were increased by the 3-AP treatment. Moreover, interferon (IFN)-γ-producing cells and interleukin (IL)-17-producing cells were decreased in cerebellar ataxia rats, but IL-4-producing cells and CD25-expressing cells were increased. Expression of the T helper (Th)1- and Th17-related cytokines, IFN-γ, IL-2, IL-17 and IL-22, was downregulated in CD4+ cells in cerebellar ataxia rats, while expression of the Th2 and regulatory T (Treg)-related cytokines, IL-4, IL-5, IL-10 and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β, was upregulated. Furthermore, B lymphocyte number and anti-bovine serum albumin (BSA) IgM and IgG antibody levels were elevated in cerebellar ataxia.
CONCLUSION: Cerebellar ataxia alters cellular and humoral immunity.