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Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) was induced in young (2-3 month old), middle-aged (12-13 month old) and geriatric (24-26 month old) Lewis (JC) rats by active immunisation with myelin basic protein (MBP) in complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA). It was found that aged Lewis (JC) rats developed a more chronic form of EAE than younger rats of the same strain, a phenomenon observed in both male and female rats despite males developing more severe disease than females at all ages. Middle-aged recipients also developed more severe disease than young recipients when EAE was induced by the adoptive transfer of lymphocytes from actively immunised young donors, suggesting that disease chronicity in middle-aged animals is a property of the central nervous system (CNS) milieu. Histological studies demonstrated that disease chronicity did not correlate with the number of inflammatory lesions in the CNS, young animals containing substantial numbers of CNS lesions following recovery and lesions being largely absent from middle-aged animals which still exhibited signs of disease. No significant differences were found in the degree of fibrin deposition or demyelination between young and middle-aged or symptomatic and asymptomatic animals. However, astrocytic hypertrophy was found to correlate with manifestation of disease in both young and middle-aged animals and in particular with disease chronicity in middle-aged animals. In parallel studies, no significant differences were found in the levels of the inflammatory mediators tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, prostaglandin E (PGE)2, reactive nitrogen intermediates (RNI) and corticosterone in young and middle-aged animals. However, markedly elevated corticosterone levels were found in both young and middle-aged animals with the development of clinical signs which returned to baseline levels with the resolution of clinical signs. Elevated levels of RNI were evident in animals immediately prior to and during the early stages of symptomatic EAE. Although these results suggest that nitric oxide may play a role in the pathogenesis of disease, whereas corticosterone may play a role in the immunoregulation of the disease, these factors cannot explain differences in disease chronicity evident in middle-aged animals.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of neuroimmunology

Publication Date





121 - 134


Division of Cell Biology, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra City.


Spinal Cord, Astrocytes, Animals, Rats, Inbred Lew, Rats, Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental, Hypertrophy, Age Factors, Female, Male, Myelin Basic Protein