Although the regulatory role of MAIT cells in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis has been determined, their role in multiple sclerosis (MS) has not been elucidated.
In the present study, the character of MAIT cells in the peripheral blood of MS patients was analyzed.
Compared with healthy controls, the frequency of MAIT cells in peripheral blood was significantly reduced in MS patients in remission and even more profoundly reduced in those with relapse.
The frequency of MAIT cells reflected the disease activity, as they were reduced significantly in patients with active disease compared with stable patients, and when blood samples from patients undergoing attack were analyzed 2-3 months later, the frequency significantly increased in parallel with clinical recovery.
The frequency of MAIT cells positively correlated with the frequency of CD4(+) invariant NKT cells and of CD56(bright) NK cells in healthy controls but not in MS patients.
This suggests the existence of an immune-regulatory link between MAIT cells and these other cell populations with disruption of this cross talk in MS. Moreover, MAIT cells showed a suppressive activity against IFN-γ production by T cells in vitro.
This suppression required cell contact but was independent of IL-10, inducible co-stimulator or the presence of B cells.
Taken together, these results suggest an immune-regulatory role of MAIT cells in MS through suppression of pathogenic T(h)1 cells.