Background: Gene expression analyses in paired cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) are restrained by the low RNA amounts from CSF cells and low expression levels of certain genes. Here, we applied a Taqman-based pre-amplification real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) (PreAmp RT-PCR) to cDNA from CSF cells and PBMC of MS patients and analyzed multiple genes related to immune system function and genes expressed by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a herpesvirus showing strong association with MS. Using this enhanced RT-PCR method, we aimed at the following: (1) identifying gene signatures potentially useful for patient stratification, (2) understanding whether EBV infection is perturbed in CSF and/or blood, and (3) finding a link between immune and EBV infection status. Methods: Thirty-one therapy-free patients with relapsing-remitting MS were included in the study. Paired CSF cells and PBMC were collected and expression of 41 immune-related cellular genes and 7 EBV genes associated with latent or lytic viral infection were determined by PreAmp RT-PCR. Clinical, radiological, CSF, and gene expression data were analyzed using univariate and multivariate (cluster analysis, factor analysis) statistical approaches. Results: Several immune-related genes were differentially expressed between CSF cells and PBMC from the whole MS cohort. By univariate analysis, no or only minor differences in gene expression were found associated with sex, clinical, or radiological condition. Cluster analysis on CSF gene expression data grouped patients into three clusters; clusters 1 and 2 differed by expression of genes that are related mainly to innate immunity, irrespective of sex and disease characteristics. By factor analysis, two factors grouping genes involved in antiviral immunity and immune regulation, respectively, accurately discriminated cluster 1 and cluster 2 patients. Despite the use of an enhanced RT-PCR method, EBV transcripts were detected in a minority of patients (5 of 31), with evidence of viral latency activation in CSF cells or PBMC and of lytic infection in one patient with active disease only. Conclusions: Analysis of multiple cellular and EBV genes in paired CSF cell and PBMC samples using PreAmp RT-PCR may yield new information on the complex interplay between biological processes underlying MS and help in biomarker identification.
Veroni, C., Marnetto, F., Granieri, L., Bertolotto, A., Ballerini, C., Repice, A. M., … Aloisi, F. (2015). Immune and Epstein-Barr virus gene expression in cerebrospinal fluid and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Journal of Neuroinflammation, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12974-015-0353-1