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The multiple sclerosis drug fingolimod (FTY720) stimulates neuronal gene expression, axonal growth and regeneration

Sofia Anastasiadou, Bernd Knöll


  • The multiple sclerosis drug fingolimod elicits a neuronal gene expression response.
  • Fingolimod increases neurite growth of peripheral and central nervous system neurons.
  • Fingolimod enhances peripheral axon regeneration of the injured facial nerve.
  • Fingoliomod signal requires the transcription factor SRF.


Fingolimod (FTY720) is a new generation oral treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). So far, FTY720 was mainly considered to target trafficking of immune cells but not brain cells such as neurons. Herein, we analyzed FTY720's potential to directly alter neuronal function. In CNS neurons, we identified a FTY720 governed gene expression response. FTY720 upregulated immediate early genes (IEGs) encoding for neuronal activity associated transcription factors such as c-Fos, FosB, Egr1 and Egr2 and induced actin cytoskeleton associated genes (actin isoforms, tropomyosin, calponin). Stimulation of primary neurons with FTY720 enhanced neurite growth and altered growth cone morphology. In accordance, FTY720 enhanced axon regeneration in mice upon facial nerve axotomy. We identified components of a FTY720 engaged signaling cascade including S1P receptors, G12/13 G-proteins, RhoA-GTPases and the transcription factors SRF/MRTF.

In summary, we uncovered a broader cellular and therapeutic operation mode of FTY720, suggesting beneficial FTY720 effects also on CNS neurons during MS therapy and for treatment of other neurodegenerative diseases requiring neuroprotective and neurorestorative processes.

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About the Editors

  • Prof Timothy Vartanian

    Timothy Vartanian, Professor at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell...
  • Dr Claire S. Riley

    Claire S. Riley, MD is an assistant attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology in the Neurological Institute, Columbia University,...
  • Dr Rebecca Farber

    Rebecca Farber, MD is an attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University, in New...

This online Resource Centre has been made possible by a donation from EMD Serono, Inc., a business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

Note that EMD Serono, Inc., has no editorial control or influence over the content of this Resource Centre. The Resource Centre and all content therein are subject to an independent editorial review.

The Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation
supports promising translational research projects by academic researchers to improve understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS) for the ultimate benefit of patients.  For full information and application details, please click here

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