BackgroundExperimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) is the most commonly used and clinically relevant murine model for human multiple sclerosis (MS), a demyelinating autoimmune disease characterized by mononuclear cell infiltration into the central nervous system (CNS). The aim of the present study was to appraise the alterations, poorly documented in the literature, which may occur at the peripheral nervous system (PNS) level.MethodsTo this purpose, a multiple evaluation of peripheral nerve excitability was undertaken, by means of a minimally invasive electrophysiological method, in EAE mice immunized with the myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) 35-55 peptide, an experimental model for MS that reproduces, in animals, the anatomical and behavioral alterations observed in humans with MS, including CNS inflammation, demyelination of neurons, and motor abnormalities. Additionally, the myelin sheath thickness of mouse sciatic nerves was evaluated using transmission electronic microscopy.ResultsAs expected, the mean clinical score of mice, daily determined to describe the symptoms associated to the EAE progression, increased within about 18 days after immunization for EAE mice while it remained null for all control animals. The multiple evaluation of peripheral nerve excitability, performed in vivo 2 and 4 weeks after immunization, reveals that the main modifications of EAE mice, compared to control animals, are a decrease of the maximal compound action potential (CAP) amplitude and of the stimulation intensity necessary to generate a CAP with a 50% maximum amplitude. In addition, and in contrast to control mice, at least 2 CAPs were recorded following a single stimulation in EAE animals, reflecting various populations of sensory and motor nerve fibers having different CAP conduction speeds, as expected if a demyelinating process occurred in the PNS of these animals. In contrast, single CAPs were always recorded from the sensory and motor nerve fibers of control mice having more homogeneous CAP conduction speeds. Finally, the myelin sheath thickness of sciatic nerves of EAE mice was decreased 4 weeks after immunization when compared to control animals.ConclusionsIn conclusion, the loss of immunological self-tolerance to MOG in EAE mice or in MS patients may not be only attributed to the restricted expression of this antigen in the immunologically privileged environment of the CNS but also of the PNS.