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Only few studies describe the impact of nutritive factors on chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), an inflammatory disease of the peripheral nervous system. The active component of chili pepper, capsaicin, is the direct agonist of the transient receptor potential channel vanilloid subfamily member 1. Its anti-inflammatory effect in the animal model experimental autoimmune neuritis (EAN) has been previously demonstrated. In the present study, we describe the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative influence of capsaicin on Schwann cells (SCs) in an in vitro setting. Hereby, we analyze the effect of capsaicin on Schwann cells' gene expression pattern, major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) presentation, and H2O2-induced oxidative stress. Furthermore, the effect of capsaicin on myelination was examined in a SC-dorsal root ganglia (DRG) coculture by myelin basic protein staining. Finally, in order to investigate the isolated effect of capsaicin on SCs in EAN pathology, we transplant naïve and capsaicin pre-treated SCs intrathecally in EAN immunized rats and analyzed clinical presentation, electrophysiological parameters, and cytokine expression in the sciatic nerve. In SC monoculture, incubation with capsaicin significantly reduces interferon gamma-induced MHC-II production as well as toll-like receptor 4 and intercellular adhesion molecule 1 mRNA expression. Calcitonin gene-related peptide mRNA production is significantly upregulated after capsaicin treatment. Capsaicin reduces H2O2-induced oxidative stress in SC in a preventive, but not therapeutic setting. In a SC-DRG coculture, capsaicin does not affect myelination rate. After intrathecal transplantation of naïve and capsaicin pre-treated SCs in EAN-immunized rats, naïve, but not capsaicin pre-treated intrathecal SCs, ameliorated EAN pathology in rats. In conclusion, we were able to demonstrate a direct immunomodulatory and anti-oxidative effect of capsaicin in a SC culture by reduced antigen presentation and expression of an anti-inflammatory profile. Furthermore, capsaicin increases the resistance of SCs against oxidative stress. A primary effect of capsaicin on myelination was not proven. These results are in concordance with previous data showing an anti-inflammatory effect of capsaicin, which might be highly relevant for CIDP patients.


Thomas Grüter, Alina Blusch, Jeremias Motte, Melissa Sgodzai, Hussein Bachir, Rafael Klimas, Björn Ambrosius, Ralf Gold, Gisa Ellrichmann, Kalliopi Pitarokoili. Immunomodulatory and anti-oxidative effect of the direct TRPV1 receptor agonist capsaicin on Schwann cells. Journal of neuroinflammation. 2020 May 06;17(1):145

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PMID: 32375895

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