2015-01-21 – Journal of Hepatology 2015 vol. 62 j 1349–1356

Nanoparticle-based autoantigen delivery to Treg-inducing liver sinusoidal endothelial cells enables control of autoimmunity in mice

Background & Aims: It is well-known that the liver can induce immune tolerance, yet this knowledge could, thus far, not be translated into effective treatments for autoimmune diseases. We have previously shown that liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs) could substantially contribute to hepatic tolerance through their ability to induce CD4+ Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs). Here, we explored whether the Treg-inducing potential of LSECs could be harnessed for the treatment of autoimmune disease.

Methods: We engineered a polymeric nanoparticle (NP) carrier for the selective delivery of autoantigen peptides to LSECs in vivo. In the well-characterized autoimmune disease model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), we investigated whether administration of LSEC-targeting autoantigen peptide-loaded NPs could protect mice from autoimmune disease.

Results: We demonstrate that NP-based autoantigen delivery to LSECs could completely and permanently prevent the onset of clinical EAE. More importantly, in a therapeutic approach, mice with already established EAE improved rapidly and substantially following administration of a single dose of autoantigen peptide-loaded NPs, whereas the control group deteriorated. Treatment efficacy seemed to depend on Tregs. The Treg frequencies in the spleens of mice treated with autoantigen peptide-loaded NPs were significantly higher than those in vehicle-treated mice. Moreover, NP-mediated disease control was abrogated after Treg depletion by repeated administration of Treg-depleting antibody.

Conclusion: Our findings provide proof of principle that the selective delivery of autoantigen peptides to LSECs by NPs can induce antigen-specific Tregs and enable effective treatment of autoimmune disease. These findings highlight the importance of Treg induction by LSECs for immune tolerance.