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  • Serum antibodies in epilepsy and seizure-associated disorders.

    24 October 2018

    OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether autoantibodies to ion channels and other neural antigens are present in the sera of patients with epilepsy and seizure-related diseases. METHODS: Sera were obtained from 139 patients, including 26 with preexisting autoimmune disease, 46 in whom an autoimmune basis was suspected, and 67 with drug-resistant epilepsy. The sera were assayed for antibodies to voltage-gated potassium (VGKC) and calcium (VGCC) channels, glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), gangliosides, glutamate receptor type 3, cardiolipins, DNA, and nuclear antigens; the results were compared with results from a large cohort of healthy and disease controls. RESULTS: Increased titers of VGKC antibodies (>100 pM) were detected in 16 of 139 (11%) patients with seizures but only 1 control (0.5%). Eight VGKC-positive patients presented with an acute/subacute illness, and 5 of these had the highest VGKC antibodies; 3 patients improved spontaneously, another 5 patients responded well to immunomodulatory therapy. The other VGKC-positive patients had longer disease duration (>6 years) and intermediate levels of antibodies; immunotherapies have not been tested in this group. Very high levels of GAD antibodies (>1,000 U) were found in an additional 3 patients (2.1%) with long-standing drug-resistant epilepsy. CONCLUSIONS: The presence of autoantibodies to voltage-gated potassium channels and glutamic acid decarboxylase suggests that the immune system may contribute to certain forms of epilepsy or seizure-associated disorders. Further studies are needed to determine whether the antibodies are pathogenic.

  • Alpha7-acetylcholine receptor antibodies in two patients with Rasmussen encephalitis.

    24 October 2018

    Rasmussen encephalitis (RE) sera were screened for antibodies to human alpha7 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 alpha7 nAChRs and the ACh-induced rise in intracellular free calcium ([Ca2+]i) and inhibited (125)I-alpha-bungarotoxin binding in cells expressing alpha7 nAChRs. Thus, the alpha7 nAChR is a potential target for pathogenic antibodies in patients with RE.

  • Absence of antibodies to glutamate receptor type 3 (GluR3) in Rasmussen encephalitis.

    24 October 2018

    OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of serum antibodies to the ionotropic glutamate receptor 3 (GluR3) in patients with Rasmussen encephalitis (RE), a severe epileptic disorder, and to compare with serum from control subjects and patients with intractable epilepsy (IE). METHODS: The authors looked for serum immunoglobulin (Ig) G antibodies to GluR3 in 30 patients with RE, including two patients who had plasma exchange and 12 who had been treated with IV Igs with varying results, and 49 patients with IE and 23 healthy individuals, using ELISA with GluR3B peptide, Western blot analysis of recombinant full-length GluR3, immunoprecipitation of [35S]- and [125I]-labeled GluR3 extracellular domains, immunohistochemistry on rat brain sections, and electrophysiology of GluR3 expressed in Xenopus oocytes. RESULTS: Low levels of antibodies to the GluR3B peptide were detected using ELISA in only 4 of the 79 patients with epilepsy (2 with RE and 2 with IE); binding to GluR3B in other sera was shown to be nonspecific. One other patient with IE had antibodies to recombinant GluR3 on Western blot analysis. However, none of the sera tested precipitated either the [35S]- or the [125I]-labeled GluR3 domains; none bound to rat brain sections in a manner similar to rabbit antibodies to GluR3; and none of the nine sera tested affected the electrophysiologic function of GluR3. CONCLUSIONS: GluR3 antibodies were only infrequently found in Rasmussen encephalitis or intractable epilepsy.

  • Autoantibody screening in subacute cerebellar ataxia.

    24 October 2018

    In a retrospective study of 280 sera from patients presenting with cerebellar signs, seven of whom had proved positive for the typical paraneoplastic serum antibodies that were requested by the clinicians, raised concentrations of antibodies to voltage-gated calcium channels or to glutamic acid decarboxylase were detected in a further seven sera. Systematic screening for these and other antibodies in future cases should help in the diagnosis and management of the patients.

  • The role of humoral autoimmunity in gastrointestinal neuromuscular diseases.

    24 October 2018

    Dysfunction of the gastrointestinal neuromuscular apparatus (including interstitial cells of Cajal) is presumed to underlie a heterogeneous group of disorders collectively termed gastrointestinal neuromuscular diseases (GINMDs). There is increasing experimental and clinical evidence that some GINMDs are immune-mediated, with cell-mediated dysfunction relatively well studied. Humoral (antibody)-mediated autoimmunity is associated with several well-established acquired neuromuscular diseases and is now implicated in an increasing number of less well-characterised disorders, particularly of the central nervous system. The role of autoimmunity in GINMDs has been less studied. Whilst most work has focused on the presence of antibodies directed to nuclear antigens, particularly in the context of secondary disorders such as paraneoplastic intestinal pseudo-obstruction, the possibility that 'functional' anti-neuronal antibodies directed to membrane-bound ion channels may cause disease (channelopathy) is now also being realised. The evidence for humoral autoimmunity as an etiologic factor in primary (idiopathic) and secondary GINMDs is systematically presented using the original paradigms previously applied to established autoimmune neuromuscular disorders. The presence of anti-enteric neuronal antibodies, although repeatedly demonstrated, still requires the identification of specific neuronal autoantigens and validated evidence of pathogenicity.

  • P/Q type calcium-channel antibodies in paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration with lung cancer.

    24 October 2018

    Raised levels of P/Q type voltage-gated calcium-channel (VGCC) antibodies were found in 16 (41%) of 39 patients with paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration (PCD) and Hu antibodies were found in nine (23%). Seven of the 16 VGCC antibody-positive patients had Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS). Seven of 15 CSF samples had VGCC antibodies, with evidence of intrathecal synthesis in four. VGCC antibodies should be looked for in PCD, even if there are no symptoms of LEMS, and may be related to the cerebellar dysfunction.

  • Autoimmune channelopathies and related neurological disorders.

    24 October 2018

    Ion channels are crucial elements in neuronal signaling and synaptic transmission, and defects in their function are known to underlie rare genetic disorders, including some forms of epilepsy. A second class of channelopathies, characterized by autoantibodies against ligand- and voltage-gated ion channels, cause a variety of defects in peripheral neuromuscular and ganglionic transmission. There is also emerging evidence for autoantibody-mediated mechanisms in subgroups of patients with central nervous system disorders, particularly those involving defects in cognition or sleep and often associated with epilepsy. In all autoimmune channelopathies, the relationship between autoantibody specificity and clinical phenotype is complex. But with this new information, autoimmune channelopathies are detected and treated with increasing success, and future research promises new insights into the mechanisms of dysfunction at neuronal synapses and the determinants of clinical phenotype.