Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease characterised by the infiltration of autoreactive T-cell causing damages to the central nervous system. So far, interferon-β and glatiramer acetate are the only two immunomodulatory coumpounds that have been approved as non-curative disease managing strategies. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the development of novel efficient therapies that can be both safe and potent in inhibiting MS progression and promote reversal of disease state. We have recently published a report describing a novel synthetic GMCSF and IL15 Fusion Transgene (GIFT15) and have described its paradoxical and potent immune suppressive properties in vivo [

Rafei et al.,
March 2007
)]. Its mechanism of action relies on STAT3 hyperactivation arising from aberrant signalling taking place downstream of the IL15 receptor. We have now further studied the effect of GIFT15 on mouse spleen cells in vitro and here demonstrate that it leads to the conversion of murine T-cells to a novel suppressive regulatory cell type. Indeed, GIFT15-treated splenocytes (hereafter GIFT15 regs) shed their TCR and loose expression of CD3, CD4 and CD8, retain CD2 expression and acquire expression of MHC II. Distinct to classic T-regulatory cells, GIFT15 regs do not express CD25 or FOXP3. GIFT15 regs were able to suppress an in vitro two-way MLR by a contact-dependent mechanism as well as by the contemporaneous production of interleukin (IL)-10. Furthermore, GIFT15 regs were able to block antigen-specific activation of CD4-T-cells in response to autologous macrophage stimulation. As a proof-of-principle in vivo study, GIFT15 regs were injected intravenously in mice with pre-established experimental allergic encephalitis (EAE) and disease score was monitored over time. Interestingly, mice recovered significantly faster than controls following administration GIFT15 regs and a blockade in EAE progression was also noticed over time. In conclusion, our data suggests that GIFT15 can be used as a method to ex vivo generate suppressor cells of a new type which are distinct from classic Tregs or Tr1 cells. We propose that GIFT15 regs derived from autologous lymphocytes may be exploited for the treatment of autoimmune disease such as MS and may also be of use for other autoimmune ailments as well.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.