Expression of cathepsins S and D signals a distinctive biochemical trait in CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients

Sabata Martino, Simona Montesano, Ilaria Di Girolamo, Roberto Tiribuzi, Maria Di Gregorio, Antonio Orlacchio, Alessandro Datti, Paolo Calabresi, Paola Sarchielli, Aldo Orlacchio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: The elucidation of mechanistic aspects of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) pathogenesis may offer valuable insights into diagnostic decisions and medical treatment. Results: Two lysosomal proteases, cathepsins S and D (CatS and CatD), display an exclusive pattern of expression in CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) from peripheral blood of acute MS (A-MS) patients (n = 20). While both enzymes normally exist as precursor forms in the HSCs of healthy individuals (n = 30), the same cells from A-MS patients consistently exhibit mature enzymes. Further, mature cathepsins are expressed at lower rates in stable MS subjects (S-MS, n = 15) and revert to precursor proteins after interferon-β1a treatment (n = 5). Mature CatD and CatS were induced in HSCs of healthy donors that were either co-cultured with PBMCs of A-MS patients or exposed to their plasma, suggesting a functional involvement of soluble agents. Following HSC exposure to several cytokines known to be implicated in MS, and based on relative cytokine levels displayed in A-MS, S-MS and control individuals, we identified IL-16 as a specific cell signaling factor associated with cathepsin processing. Conclusions: These data point to an evident correlation between CatS and CatD expression and MS clinical stage, and define a biochemical trait in HSCs with functional, medical, and diagnostic relevance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1443-1453
Number of pages11
JournalMultiple Sclerosis Journal
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013



  • cathepsins
  • diagnosis
  • multiple sclerosis
  • stem cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology

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