Multiple sclerosis is linked to MAPKERK overactivity in microglia

George J. A. ten Bosch*, Jolande Bolk, Bert A. ‘t Hart, Jon D. Laman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Reassessment of published observations in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) suggests a microglial malfunction due to inappropriate (over)activity of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway ERK (MAPKERK). These observations regard biochemistry as well as epigenetics, and all indicate involvement of this pathway. Recent preclinical research on neurodegeneration already pointed towards a role of MAPK pathways, in particular MAPKERK. This is important as microglia with overactive MAPK have been identified to disturb local oligodendrocytes which can lead to locoregional demyelination, hallmark of MS. This constitutes a new concept on pathophysiology of MS, besides the prevailing view, i.e., autoimmunity. Acknowledged risk factors for MS, such as EBV infection, hypovitaminosis D, and smoking, all downregulate MAPKERK negative feedback phosphatases that normally regulate MAPKERK activity. Consequently, these factors may contribute to inappropriate MAPKERK overactivity, and thereby to neurodegeneration. Also, MAPKERK overactivity in microglia, as a factor in the pathophysiology of MS, could explain ongoing neurodegeneration in MS patients despite optimized immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory treatment. Currently, for these patients with progressive disease, no effective treatment exists. In such refractory MS, targeting the cause of overactive MAPKERK in microglia merits further investigation as this phenomenon may imply a novel treatment approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1042
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number8
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

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