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  • Peptide neurotoxins, small-cell lung carcinoma andneurological paraneoplastic syndromes.

    24 October 2018

    Peptide neurotoxins isolated from the venom of snakes, spiders and snails have represented invaluable tools for the identification and characterisation of membrane ion channels and receptors in vertebrate cells, including human neurons. We here report on the use of these toxins for the characterisation of membrane ion channels and receptors expressed by one of the most aggressive human cancers, small-cell lung carcinoma. This tumour shares many properties with other neuro-endocrine cell types, including the ability of firing action potentials and release hormones in a calcium-dependent manner. Toxins such as alpha-bungarotoxin and omega-conotoxins, among others, have been successfully used to characterise neuronal nicotinic receptors and voltage-dependent calcium channels, respectively, in human small-cell lung carcinoma cells. These receptors and ion channels are not only crucial for the growth of this specific tumour, but also represent autoantigens against which cancer patients build an autoimmune response. Although the aim of this autoimmune response is eventually the destruction of the cancer cells, the circulating antibodies cross-react with similar ion channels and receptors present in normal neurons or other cells, causing a number of different paraneoplastic diseases, the best characterised of which is the Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome. Conotoxin-based radioimmunoassays have become an invaluable tool for the diagnosis and follow up of these paraneoplastic disorders and could represent a step forward in the early diagnosis of small-cell lung carcinoma itself.

  • Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome: from clinical characteristics to therapeutic strategies.

    24 October 2018

    Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) is a neuromuscular autoimmune disease that has served as a model for autoimmunity and tumour immunology. In LEMS, the characteristic muscle weakness is thought to be caused by pathogenic autoantibodies directed against voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCC) present on the presynaptic nerve terminal. Half of patients with LEMS have an associated tumour, small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC), which also expresses functional VGCC. Knowledge of this association led to the discovery of a wide range of paraneoplastic and non-tumour-related neurological disorders of the peripheral and central nervous systems. Detailed clinical studies have improved our diagnostic skills and knowledge of the pathophysiological mechanisms and association of LEMS with SCLC, and have helped with the development of a protocol for early tumour detection.

  • α7-Acetylcholine receptor antibodies in two patients with Rasmussen encephalitis

    24 October 2018

    Rasmussen encephalitis (RE) sera were screened for antibodies to human α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) using electrophysiology, calcium imaging, and ligand binding assays. Sera from two of nine patients with RE blocked ACh-induced currents through α7 nAChRs and the ACh-induced rise in intracellular free calcium ([Ca2+]i) and inhibited125I-α-bungarotoxin binding in cells expressing α7 nAChRs. Thus, the α7 nAChR is a potential target for pathogenic antibodies in patients with RE. Copyright © 2005 by AAN Enterprises, Inc.

  • Molecular targets for autoimmune and genetic disorders of neuromuscular transmission.

    24 October 2018

    The neuromuscular junction is the target of a variety of autoimmune, neurotoxic and genetic disorders, most of which result in muscle weakness. Most of the diseases, and many neurotoxins, target the ion channels that are essential for neuromuscular transmission. Myasthenia gravis is an acquired autoimmune disease caused in the majority of patients by antibodies to the acetylcholine receptor, a ligand-gated ion channel. The antibodies lead to loss of acetylcholine receptor, reduced efficiency of neuromuscular transmission and muscle weakness and fatigue. Placental transfer of these antibodies in women with myasthenia can cause fetal or neonatal weakness and occasionally severe deformities. Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome and acquired neuromyotonia are caused by antibodies to voltage-gated calcium or potassium channels, respectively. In the rare acquired neuromyotonia, reduced repolarization of the nerve terminal leads to spontaneous and repetitive muscle activity. In each of these disorders, the antibodies are detected by immunoprecipitation of the relevant ion channel labelled with radioactive neurotoxins. Genetic disorders of neuromuscular transmission are due mainly to mutations in the genes for the acetylcholine receptor. These conditions show recessive or dominant inheritance and result in either loss of receptors or altered kinetics of acetylcholine receptor channel properties. Study of these conditions has greatly increased our understanding of synaptic function and of disease aetiology.

  • Immune-mediated steroid-responsive epileptic spasms and epileptic encephalopathy associated with VGKC-complex antibodies.

    24 October 2018

    Autoantibodies that bind to voltage-gated potassium-channel complex proteins (VGKC-complex antibodies) occur frequently in adults with limbic encephalitis presenting with cognitive impairment and seizures. Recently, VGKC-complex antibodies have been described in a few children with limbic encephalitis, and children with unexplained encephalitis presenting with status epilepticus. We report a case of infantile-onset epileptic spasms and developmental delay compatible with epileptic encephalopathy. Our patient was a female infant, aged 4 months at presentation. She had evidence of immune activation in the central nervous system with elevated cerebrospinal fluid neopterin and mirrored oligoclonal bands, which prompted testing for autoantibodies. VGKC-complex antibodies were elevated (201 pmol/L, normal<100), but extended antibody testing, including leucine-rich glioma-inactivated 1 (LGI1) and contactin-associated protein 2 (CASPR2), was negative. The patient showed a partial response to steroid treatment, which was started late in the disease course. On review at 13 months of age, her development was consistent with an age of 5 to 6 months. These results suggest that VGKC-complex antibodies might represent a marker of immune therapy responsiveness in a subgroup of patients with infantile epileptic encephalopathy.