Oligodendrocytes are myelin forming cells in mammalian central nervous system. About 50% of oligodendrocytes (OLGs) undergo cell death in normal development. In addition, OLG cell deaths have been observed in demyelinating diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS). Clinical observations and in vitro cell culture studies have suggested that cytokines mediate OLG cell damage in multiple sclerosis (MS). Among the cytokines, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is thought to be one of the mediators responsible for the damage of OLGs in MS. The administration of TNF-α to primary cultures of OLGs induced DNA fragmentation, and significantly decreased the number of live OLGs. Chemical inhibitors Ac-YVAD-CHO (a specific inhibitor of caspase-1 (ICE)-like proteases) enhanced the survival of TNF-α treated OLGs better than Ac-DEVD-CHO (a specific inhibitor of caspase-3 (CPP32)-like proteases). These results indicate that caspase-1-mediated cell-death pathway are activated in TNF-induced OLG cell death. Caspase-11 is involved in activation of caspase-1. Oligodendrocytes from caspase-11-deficient mice are partially resistant to TNF-induced OLG cell death. Our results suggest that the inhibition of caspase-1 sufamily may be a novel therapeutic approach to treat MS.
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