Autologous haematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (AHSCT) has been experimented as a treatment in patients affected by severe forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) who failed to respond to standard immunotherapy. The rationale of AHSCT is to ‘reboot’ the immune system and reconstitute a new adaptive immunity. The aim of our study was to identify, through a robust and unbiased transcriptomic analysis, any changes of gene expression in T-cells potentially underlying the treatment effect in patients who underwent non-myeloablative AHSCT for treatment of MS. We evaluated by microarray DNA-chip technology the gene expression of peripheral CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell subsets sorted from patients with MS patients before AHSCT, at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years after AHSCT and from healthy control subjects. Hierarchical clustering analysis revealed that reconstituted CD8+ T-cells of MS patients at 2 years post-transplantation, aggregated together with healthy controls, suggesting a normalization of gene expression in CD8+ cells post-therapy. When we compared the gene expression in MS patients before and after therapy, we detected a large number of differentially expressed genes (DEG) in both CD8+ and CD4+ T-cell subsets at all time points after transplantation. We catalogued the biological function of DEG and we selected 27 genes known to be involved in immune function for accurate quantification of gene expression by real-time PCR. The analysis confirmed and extended with quantitative data, a number of significant changes in both the CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells subsets from MS post-transplant. Notably, CD8+ T-cells revealed more extensive changes in the expression of genes involved in effector immune responses.

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