Oral administration of the nitroxide radical TEMPOL exhibits immunomodulatory and therapeutic properties in multiple sclerosis models

Sarah Neil, Jaebong Huh, Victoria Baronas, Xinhui Li, Henry F. McFarland, Murali Cherukuri, James B. Mitchell, Jacqueline A. Quandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Therapies with both immunomodulatory and neuroprotective properties are thought to have the greatest promise in reducing the severity and progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). Several reactive oxygen (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) are implicated in inflammatory-mediated damage to the central nervous system (CNS) in MS and its animal model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). TEMPOL (4-hydroxy-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine-N-oxyl) is a stable nitroxide radical with potent antioxidant activity. The goal of our studies was to investigate the immunomodulatory effects and therapeutic potential of orally-delivered TEMPOL in the mouse EAE model. Mice receiving TEMPOL chow ad libitum for 2 weeks prior to induction of active EAE showed delayed onset and reduced incidence of disease compared to control-fed animals. Reduced disease severity was associated with limited microglial activation and fewer inflammatory infiltrates. TEMPOL's effects were immunomodulatory, not immunosuppressive: T cells produced less interferon-γ and tumor necrosis factor-α, and TEMPOL-fed mice exhibited a shift towards TH2-type antibody responses. Both myeloid and myeloid-dendritic cells of TEMPOL-fed EAE animals had significantly lower levels of MHC class II expression than controls; CD40 was also significantly reduced. TEMPOL administration was associated with an enrichment of CD8+ T cell populations and CD4+FoxP3 + regulatory populations. TEMPOL reduced the severity of clinical disease when administered after the induction of disease, and also after the onset of clinical symptoms. To exclude effects on T cell priming in vivo, TEMPOL was tested with the passive transfer of encephalitogenic T cells and was found to reduce the incidence and peak severity of disease. Protection was associated with reduced infiltrates and a relative sparing of neurofilaments and axons. The ability of oral TEMPOL to reduce inflammation and axonal damage and loss demonstrate both anti-inflammatory and protective properties, with significant promise for the treatment of MS and related neurological disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-343
Number of pages12
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • EAE
  • Inflammation
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Nitroxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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