Erythropoietin exerts an anti-inflammatory effect on the CNS in a model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis

Davide Agnello, Paolo Bigini, Pia Villa, Tiziana Mennini, Anthony Cerami, Michael L. Brines, Pietro Ghezzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent work we reported that systemically administered erythropoietin (EPO) crosses the blood-brain barrier and has protective effects in animal models of cerebral ischemia, brain trauma and in a rat model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Here we characterize the effect of systemic EPO on the inflammatory component of actively induced, acute EAE in Lewis rats. Administration of EPO at doses of 500-5000 U/kg bw i.p., daily from day 3 after immunization with myelin basic protein (MBP), delayed the onset of EAE and decreased its clinical score at peak time (days 12-13). Immunohistochemical analysis of the spinal cord using anti-glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and anti-CD11b antibodies showed that EPO markedly diminished inflammation and glial activation/proliferation. EAE induced significant levels of TNF and IL-6 in the spinal cord, where IL-6 was maximum at the onset of the disease (day 10) and TNF at its peak (day 12). EPO delayed the increase of TNF levels, without altering their peak levels, and markedly reduced those of IL-6 suggesting that the decreased inflammation and clinical score may be in part upon attenuation of IL-6. On the other hand, EPO was without effect in a model of adjuvant-induced arthritis in Lewis rats, suggesting a specificity towards autoimmune demyelinating diseases. These data suggest that EPO might act as a protective cytokine in inflammatory pathologies of the CNS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-134
Number of pages7
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 11 2002


  • Cytokine
  • Erythropoietin
  • Inflammation
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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