Leptomeningeal inflammation in multiple sclerosis is associated with worse clinical outcomes and greater cortical pathology. Despite progress in identification of this process in multiple sclerosis patients using post-contrast FLAIR imaging, early trials attempting to target meningeal inflammation have been unsuccessful. There is a lack of appropriate model systems to screen potential therapeutic agents targeting meningeal inflammation. We utilized ultra-high field (11.7 Tesla) MRI to perform post-contrast FLAIR imaging in SJL/J mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis induced using immunization with proteolipid protein peptide (PLP139-151) and complete Freund’s adjuvant. Imaging was performed in both a cross-sectional and longitudinal fashion at time-points ranging from 2 to 14 weeks post-immunization. Following imaging, we euthanized animals and collected tissue for pathological evaluation, which identified dense cellular infiltrates corresponding to areas of contrast-enhancement involving the leptomeninges. These areas of meningeal inflammation contained B cells (B220+), T cells (CD3+) and myeloid cells (Mac2+). We also noted features consistent with tertiary lymphoid tissue within these areas – presence of peripheral node addressin (PNAd) positive structures, CXCL13 producing cells and FDC-M1+ follicular dendritic cells. In the cortex adjacent to areas of meningeal inflammation we identified astrocytosis, microgliosis, demyelination and evidence of axonal stress/damage. Since areas of meningeal contrast enhancement persisted over several weeks in longitudinal experiments, we utilized this model to test the effects of a therapeutic intervention on established meningeal inflammation. We randomized mice with evidence of meningeal contrast enhancement on MRI scans performed at 6 weeks post-immunization, to treatment with either vehicle or evobrutinib (a Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor) for a period of 4 weeks. These mice underwent serial imaging and we examined the effect of treatment on the areas of meningeal contrast enhancement and noted a significant reduction in the evobrutinib group compared to vehicle (30% reduction versus 5% increase; P = 0.003). We utilized ultra-high field MRI imaging to identify areas of meningeal inflammation and to track them over time in SJL/J mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and then utilized this model to identify Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibition as a novel therapeutic approach to target meningeal inflammation. The results of this study provide support for future studies in multiple sclerosis patients with imaging evidence of meningeal inflammation.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience