Objectives: To study myopathies with serum antibodies to the signal recognition particle (SRP), an unusual, myositis specific antibody associated syndrome that has not been well characterised pathologically.
Methods: Clinical, laboratory, and myopathological features were evaluated in seven consecutive patients with a myopathy and serum anti-SRP antibodies, identified over three years. The anti-SRP myopathy was compared with myopathology in other types of inflammatory and immune myopathies.
Results: The patients with anti-SRP antibodies developed weakness at ages ranging from 32 to 70 years. Onset was seasonal (August to January). Weakness became severe and disability developed rapidly over a period of months. Muscle pain and fatigue were present in some patients. No patient had a dermatomyositis-like rash. Serum creatine kinase was very high (3000 to 25 000 IU/l). Muscle biopsies showed an active myopathy, including muscle fibre necrosis and regeneration. There was prominent endomysial fibrosis, but little or no inflammation. Endomysial capillaries were enlarged, reduced in number, and associated with deposits of the terminal components of complement (C5b-9, membrane attack complex). Strength improved in several patients after corticosteroid treatment.
Conclusions: Myopathies associated with anti-SRP antibodies may produce severe and rapidly progressive weakness and disability. Muscle biopsies show active myopathy with pathological changes in endomysial capillaries but little inflammation. Corticosteroid treatment early in the course of the illness is often followed by improvement in strength. In patients with rapidly progressive myopathies and a high serum creatine kinase but little inflammation on muscle biopsy, measurement of anti-SRP antibodies and pathological examination of muscle, including evaluation of endomysial capillaries, may provide useful information on diagnosis and treatment.