Identification of Medium-Length Antineurofilament Autoantibodies in Patients with Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis

Shisi Wang, Cancan Xu, Xiaobo Sun, Yifan Zhou, Yaqing Shu, Shangzhou Xia, Zhengqi Lu, Wei Qiu, Xiaofen Zhong, Lisheng Peng
Journal of Clinical Neurology 2020, 16 (3): 470-479

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis is a severe central nervous system disorder mediated by NMDAR antibodies that damages neurons. We investigated the correlation between cytoskeletal autoantibodies and the clinical severity in patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis.

METHODS: Non-NMDAR autoantibodies were identified by screening matched cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and the serum samples of 45 consecutive patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis and 60 healthy individuals against N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor 1-transfected and nontransfected human embryonic kidney 293T cells. Immunocytochemistry was performed to assess antibody binding in rat brain sections and primary cortical neurons. Cell-based assays and Western blotting were applied to identify autoantibodies targeting medium neurofilaments (NFMs). We compared clinical characteristics between patients with NMDAR encephalitis who were positive and negative for anti-NFM-autoantibodies.

RESULTS: Anti-NFM autoantibodies were detected in both the serum and CSF in one patient (2%) and in the serum only in six patients (13%). No antibodies were detected in the serum of healthy controls (7/45 vs. 0/60, p =0.0016). Four of the seven patients with anti-NFM autoantibodies in serum were children (57%), and three (43%) had abnormalities in brain magnetic resonance imaging. These patients responded well to immunotherapy, and either no significant or only mild disability was observed at the last follow-up. Anti-NMDAR encephalitis did not differ with the presence of anti-NFM autoantibodies.

CONCLUSIONS: Anti-NFM autoantibodies may be present in patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis, indicating underlying neuronal damage. A large cohort study is warranted to investigate the clinical differences between patients with NMDAR encephalitis according to their anti-NFM antibody status.

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