Signatures of cell stress and altered bioenergetics in skin fibroblasts from patients with multiple sclerosis

Jordan M. Wilkins, Oleksandr Gakh, Parijat Kabiraj, Christina B. McCarthy, W. Oliver Tobin, Charles L. Howe, Claudia F. Lucchinetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a central nervous system inflammatory demyelinating disease and the most common cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults. Despite progress in the treatment of the active relapsing disease, therapeutic options targeting irreversible progressive decline remain limited. Studies using skin fibroblasts derived from patients with neurodegenerative disorders demonstrate that cell stress pathways and bioenergetics are altered when compared to healthy individuals. However, findings in MS skin fibroblasts are limited. Here, we collected skin fibroblasts from 24 healthy control individuals, 30 patients with MS, and ten with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to investigate altered cell stress profiles. We observed endoplasmic reticulum swelling in MS skin fibroblasts, and increased gene expression of cell stress markers including BIP, ATF4, CHOP, GRP94, P53, and P21. When challenged against hydrogen peroxide, MS skin fibroblasts had reduced resiliency compared to ALS and controls. Mitochondrial and glycolytic functions were perturbed in MS skin fibroblasts while exhibiting a significant increase in lactate production over ALS and controls. Our results suggest that MS skin fibroblasts have an underlying stress phenotype, which may be disease specific. Interrogating MS skin fibroblasts may provide patient specific molecular insights and aid in prognosis, diagnosis, and therapeutic testing enhancing individualized medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15134-15156
Number of pages23
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 31 2020


  • Bioenergetics
  • Cellular stress
  • Metabolism
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Skin fibroblasts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


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