Tetraspanins are a conserved family of proteins involved in a number of biological processes. We have previously shown that Tetraspanin-32 (TSPAN32) is significantly downregulated upon activation of T helper cells via anti-CD3/CD28 stimulation. On the other hand, TSPAN32 is marginally modulated in activated Treg cells. A role for TSPAN32 in controlling the development of autoimmune responses is consistent with our observation that encephalitogenic T cells from myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) mice exhibit significantly lower levels of TSPAN32 as compared to naïve T cells. In the present study, by making use of ex vivo and in silico analysis, we aimed to better characterize the pathophysiological and diagnostic/prognostic role of TSPAN32 in T cell immunity and in multiple sclerosis (MS). We first show that TSPAN32 is significantly downregulated in memory T cells as compared to naïve T cells, and that it is further diminished upon ex vivo restimulation. Accordingly, following antigenic stimulation, myelin-specific memory T cells from MS patients showed significantly lower expression of TSPAN32 as compared to memory T cells from healthy donors (HD). The expression levels of TSPAN32 was significantly downregulated in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from drug-naïve MS patients as compared to HD, irrespective of the disease state. Finally, when comparing patients undergoing early relapses in comparison to patients with longer stable disease, moderate but significantly lower levels of TSPAN32 expression were observed in PBMCs from the former group. Our data suggest a role for TSPAN32 in the immune responses underlying the pathophysiology of MS and represent a proof-of-concept for additional studies aiming at dissecting the eventual contribution of TSPAN32 in other autoimmune diseases and its possible use of TSPAN32 as a diagnostic factor and therapeutic target.
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