Cladribine effects on T and B cells and T cell reactivity in multiple sclerosis


OBJECTIVE: Cladribine tablet therapy is an efficacious treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS), however, its mechanism of action on T and B cell subsets remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to investigate the treatment effects of cladribine on the peripheral pool of T and B cells subsets and reactivity toward central nervous system (CNS) antigens.

METHODS: In this cross-sectional exploratory study, frequencies and absolute counts of peripheral T and B cell subsets and B cell cytokine production from untreated patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and patients treated with cladribine for 1 year were measured using flow cytometry. Autoreactivity was assessed using a FluoroSpot assay.

RESULTS: We found that 1 year after initiation of cladribine treatment, a lower number of CD4+ T cells was persisting whereas CD19+ B cell counts were normalized compared to untreated patients with RRMS. Follicular helper T cells and their effecter subsets producing cytokines exerting distinct B cell helper activity were lower and, additionally, the peripheral B cell pool was skewed toward a naïve and anti-inflammatory phenotype. Finally, reactivity to the recently identified CNS-enriched autoantigen RAS guanyl-releasing protein 2 (RASGRP2), but not to myelin basic protein and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein, was lower in cladribine-treated patients.

INTERPRETATION: Together, these investigations on T and B cell subsets suggest that cladribine treatment impairs the B-T cell crosstalk and reduces their ability to mediate pathogenic effector functions. This may result in specific reduction of autoreactivity to RASGRP2 which is expressed in B cells and brain tissue. ANN NEUROL 2023;94:518-530.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)518-530
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2023


  • Cladribine/adverse effects
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors/pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents/pharmacology
  • Multiple Sclerosis/drug therapy
  • T-Lymphocytes/pathology


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