New Enhancing MRI Lesions Associate with IL-17, Neutrophil Degranulation and Integrin Microparticles: Multi-Omics Combined with Frequent MRI in Multiple Sclerosis

Zsolt Illes, Malene Møller Jørgensen, Rikke Bæk, Lisa Marie Bente, Jørgen T. Lauridsen, Kirsten H. Hyrlov, Christopher Aboo, Jan Baumbach, Tim Kacprowski, Francois Cotton, Charles R.G. Guttmann, Allan Stensballe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Blood–barrier (BBB) breakdown and active inflammation are hallmarks of relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS), but the molecular events contributing to the development of new lesions are not well explored. Leaky endothelial junctions are associated with increased production of endothelial-derived extracellular microvesicles (EVs) and result in the entry of circulating immune cells into the brain. MRI with intravenous gadolinium (Gd) can visualize acute blood–barrier disruption as the initial event of the evolution of new lesions. Methods: Here, weekly MRI with Gd was combined with proteomics, multiplex immunoassay, and endothelial stress-optimized EV array to identify early markers related to BBB disruption. Five patients with RMS with no disease-modifying treatment were monitored weekly using high-resolution 3T MRI scanning with intravenous gadolinium (Gd) for 8 weeks. Patients were then divided into three groups (low, medium, or high MRI activity) defined by the number of new, total, and maximally enhancing Gd-enhancing lesions and the number of new FLAIR lesions. Plasma samples taken at each MRI were analyzed for protein biomarkers of inflammation by quantitative proteomics, and cytokines using multiplex immunoassays. EVs were characterized with an optimized endothelial stress EV array based on exosome surface protein markers for the detection of soluble secreted EVs. Results: Proteomics analysis of plasma yielded quantitative information on 208 proteins at each patient time point (n = 40). We observed the highest number of unique dysregulated proteins (DEPs) and the highest functional enrichment in the low vs. high MRI activity comparison. Complement activation and complement/coagulation cascade were also strongly overrepresented in the low vs. high MRI activity comparison. Activation of the alternative complement pathway, pathways of blood coagulation, extracellular matrix organization, and the regulation of TLR and IGF transport were unique for the low vs. high MRI activity comparison as well, with these pathways being overrepresented in the patient with high MRI activity. Principal component analysis indicated the individuality of plasma profiles in patients. IL-17 was upregulated at all time points during 8 weeks in patients with high vs. low MRI activity. Hierarchical clustering of soluble markers in the plasma indicated that all four MRI outcomes clustered together with IL-17, IL-12p70, and IL-1β. MRI outcomes also showed clustering with EV markers CD62E/P, MIC A/B, ICAM-1, and CD42A. The combined cluster of these cytokines, EV markers, and MRI outcomes clustered also with IL-12p40 and IL-7. All four MRI outcomes correlated positively with levels of IL-17 (p < 0.001, respectively), and EV-ICAM-1 (p < 0.0003, respectively). IL-1β levels positively correlated with the number of new Gd-enhancing lesions (p < 0.01), new FLAIR lesions (p < 0.001), and total number of Gd-enhancing lesions (p < 0.05). IL-6 levels positively correlated with the number of new FLAIR lesions (p < 0.05). Random Forests and linear mixed models identified IL-17, CCL17/TARC, CCL3/MIP-1α, and TNF-α as composite biomarkers predicting new lesion evolution. Conclusions: Combination of serial frequent MRI with proteome, neuroinflammation markers, and protein array data of EVs enabled assessment of temporal changes in inflammation and endothelial dysfunction in RMS related to the evolution of new and enhancing lesions. Particularly, the Th17 pathway and IL-1β clustered and correlated with new lesions and Gd enhancement, indicating their importance in BBB disruption and initiating acute brain inflammation in MS. In addition to the Th17 pathway, abundant protein changes between MRI activity groups suggested the role of EVs and the coagulation system along with innate immune responses including acute phase proteins, complement components, and neutrophil degranulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3170
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • EV array
  • IL-17
  • IL-1β
  • MRI
  • biomarker
  • blood brain barrier
  • coagulation
  • complement
  • endothelial stress
  • enhancing lesion
  • gadolinium
  • mass spectrometry
  • multiple sclerosis
  • plasma


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