TNFR2 signaling regulates the immunomodulatory function of oligodendrocyte precursor cells

Haritha L. Desu, Placido Illiano, James S. Choi, Maureen C. Ascona, Han Gao, Jae K. Lee, Roberta Brambilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neuroimmune disorder characterized by inflammation, CNS demyelination, and progressive neurodegeneration. Chronic MS patients exhibit impaired remyeli-nation capacity, partly due to the changes that oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) undergo in response to the MS lesion environment. The cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is present in the MS-affected CNS and has been implicated in disease pathophysiology. Of the two active forms of TNF, transmembrane (tmTNF) and soluble (solTNF), tmTNF signals via TNFR2 mediating protective and reparative effects, including remyelination, whereas solTNF signals predominantly via TNFR1 promoting neurotoxicity. To better understand the mechanisms underlying repair failure in MS, we investigated the cellular responses of OPCs to inflammatory exposure and the specific role of TNFR2 signaling in their modulation. Following treatment of cultured OPCs with IFNγ, IL1β, and TNF, we observed, by RNA sequencing, marked inflammatory and immune activation of OPCs, accompanied by metabolic changes and dysregulation of their proliferation and differentiation programming. We also established the high likelihood of cell–cell interaction between OPCs and microglia in neuroin-flammatory conditions, with OPCs able to produce chemokines that can recruit and activate microglia. Importantly, we showed that these functions are exacerbated when TNFR2 is ablated. Together, our data indicate that neuroinflammation leads OPCs to shift towards an immunomodulatory phenotype while diminishing their capacity to proliferate and differentiate, thus impairing their repair function. Furthermore, we demonstrated that TNFR2 plays a key role in this process, suggesting that boosting TNFR2 activation or its downstream signals could be an effective strategy to restore OPC reparative capacity in demyelinating disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1785
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Cytokines
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Oligodendrocytes
  • Remyelination
  • TNF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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