Autoantibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase in a patient with stiff-man syndrome, epilepsy, and type I diabetes mellitus

M Solimena, F Folli, S Denis-Donini, G C Comi, G Pozza, P De Camilli, A M Vicari
New England Journal of Medicine 1988 April 21, 318 (16): 1012-20
Stiff-man syndrome is a rare disorder of the central nervous system consisting of progressive, fluctuating muscle rigidity with painful spasms. It is occasionally associated with endocrine disorders, including insulin-dependent diabetes, and with epilepsy. We investigated the possible existence of autoimmunity against the nervous system in a patient with stiff-man syndrome associated with epilepsy and Type I diabetes mellitus. Levels of IgG, which had an oligoclonal pattern, were elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid. The serum and the cerebrospinal fluid produced an identical, intense staining of all gray-matter regions when used to stain brain sections according to an indirect light-microscopical immunocytochemical procedure. The staining patterns were identical to those produced by antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase (the enzyme responsible for the synthesis of gamma-aminobutyric acid). A band comigrating with glutamic acid decarboxylase in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels appeared to be the only nervous-tissue antigen recognized by cerebrospinal fluid antibodies, and the predominant antigen recognized by serum antibodies. These findings support the idea that an impairment of neuronal pathways that operate through gamma-aminobutyric acid is involved in the pathogenesis of stiff-man syndrome, and they raise the possibility of an autoimmune pathogenesis.

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