Objective: T cells are critical in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in that they secrete inflammatory cytokines, help autoantibody production, and form autoreactive memory T cells. Although the contribution of T cells to several forms of organ-mediated damage in SLE has been previously demonstrated, the role of T cells in neuropsychiatric SLE (NPSLE), which involves diffuse central nervous system manifestations and is observed in 20–40% of SLE patients, is not known. Therefore, we conducted this study to evaluate how behavioral deficits are altered after depletion or transfer of T cells, to directly assess the role of T cells in NPSLE. Methods: MRL/lpr mice, an NPSLE mouse model, were either systemically depleted of CD4+ T cells or intracerebroventricularly injected with choroid plexus (CP)–infiltrating T cells and subsequently evaluated for alterations in neuropsychiatric manifestations. Our study end points included evaluation of systemic disease and assessment of central nervous system changes. Results: Systemic depletion of CD4+ T cells ameliorated systemic disease and cognitive deficits. Intracerebroventricular injection of CP–infiltrating T cells exacerbated depressive-like behavior and worsened cognition in recipient mice compared with mice who received injection of splenic lupus T cells or phosphate buffered saline. Moreover, we observed enhanced activation in CP–infiltrating T cells when cocultured with brain lysate–pulsed dendritic cells in comparison to the activation levels observed in cocultures with splenic T cells. Conclusion: T cells, and more specifically CP–infiltrating antigen-specific T cells, contributed to the pathogenesis of NPSLE in mice, indicating that, in the development of more targeted treatments for NPSLE, modulation of T cells may represent a potential therapeutic strategy.
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