Inhibition of CD40-TRAF6 interactions by the small molecule inhibitor 6877002 reduces neuroinflammation

Suzanne A.B.M. Aarts, Tom T.P. Seijkens, Pascal J.H. Kusters, Susanne M.A. van der Pol, Barbara Zarzycka, Priscilla D.A.M. Heijnen, Linda Beckers, Myrthe den Toom, Marion J.J. Gijbels, Louis Boon, Christian Weber, Helga E. de Vries, Gerry A.F. Nicolaes, Christine D. Dijkstra, Gijs Kooij, Esther Lutgens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The influx of leukocytes into the central nervous system (CNS) is a key hallmark of the chronic neuro-inflammatory disease multiple sclerosis (MS). Strategies that aim to inhibit leukocyte migration across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) are therefore regarded as promising therapeutic approaches to combat MS. As the CD40L-CD40 dyad signals via TNF receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) in myeloid cells to induce inflammation and leukocyte trafficking, we explored the hypothesis that specific inhibition of CD40-TRAF6 interactions can ameliorate neuro-inflammation. Methods: Human monocytes were treated with a small molecule inhibitor (SMI) of CD40-TRAF6 interactions (6877002), and migration capacity across human brain endothelial cells was measured. To test the therapeutic potential of the CD40-TRAF6-blocking SMI under neuro-inflammatory conditions in vivo, Lewis rats and C57BL/6J mice were subjected to acute experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) and treated with SMI 6877002 for 6 days (rats) or 3 weeks (mice). Results: We here show that a SMI of CD40-TRAF6 interactions (6877002) strongly and dose-dependently reduces trans-endothelial migration of human monocytes. Moreover, upon SMI treatment, monocytes displayed a decreased production of ROS, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and interleukin (IL)-6, whereas the production of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 was increased. Disease severity of EAE was reduced upon SMI treatment in rats, but not in mice. However, a significant reduction in monocyte-derived macrophages, but not in T cells, that had infiltrated the CNS was eminent in both models. Conclusions: Together, our results indicate that SMI-mediated inhibition of the CD40-TRAF6 pathway skews human monocytes towards anti-inflammatory cells with reduced trans-endothelial migration capacity, and is able to reduce CNS-infiltrated monocyte-derived macrophages during neuro-inflammation, but minimally ameliorates EAE disease severity. We therefore conclude that SMI-mediated inhibition of the CD40-TRAF6 pathway may represent a beneficial treatment strategy to reduce monocyte recruitment and macrophage activation in the CNS and has the potential to be used as a co-treatment to combat MS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2017

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