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1.  Glycine receptor antibodies in PERM and related syndromes: characteristics, clinical features and outcomes 
Brain  2014;137(8):2178-2192.
See Martinez-Martinez et al. (doi:10.1093/brain/awu153) for a scientific commentary on this article.
Carvajal-González et al. describe the first prospective cohort of patients with glycine receptor antibodies. The majority have progressive encephalomyelitis with rigidity and myoclonus. The antibodies bind to extracellular determinants on glycine receptor-α1 and to glycine receptors on spinal cord and brainstem neurons. The patients make a good recovery with immunotherapies.
The clinical associations of glycine receptor antibodies have not yet been described fully. We identified prospectively 52 antibody-positive patients and collated their clinical features, investigations and immunotherapy responses. Serum glycine receptor antibody endpoint titres ranged from 1:20 to 1:60 000. In 11 paired samples, serum levels were higher than (n = 10) or equal to (n = 1) cerebrospinal fluid levels; there was intrathecal synthesis of glycine receptor antibodies in each of the six pairs available for detailed study. Four patients also had high glutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies (>1000 U/ml), and one had high voltage-gated potassium channel-complex antibody (2442 pM). Seven patients with very low titres (<1:50) and unknown or alternative diagnoses were excluded from further study. Three of the remaining 45 patients had newly-identified thymomas and one had a lymphoma. Thirty-three patients were classified as progressive encephalomyelitis with rigidity and myoclonus, and two as stiff person syndrome; five had a limbic encephalitis or epileptic encephalopathy, two had brainstem features mainly, two had demyelinating optic neuropathies and one had an unclear diagnosis. Four patients (9%) died during the acute disease, but most showed marked improvement with immunotherapies. At most recent follow-up, (2–7 years, median 3 years, since first antibody detection), the median modified Rankin scale scores (excluding the four deaths) decreased from 5 at maximal severity to 1 (P < 0.0001), but relapses have occurred in five patients and a proportion are on reducing steroids or other maintenance immunotherapies as well as symptomatic treatments. The glycine receptor antibodies activated complement on glycine receptor-transfected human embryonic kidney cells at room temperature, and caused internalization and lysosomal degradation of the glycine receptors at 37°C. Immunoglobulin G antibodies bound to rodent spinal cord and brainstem co-localizing with monoclonal antibodies to glycine receptor-α1. Ten glycine receptor antibody positive samples were also identified in a retrospective cohort of 56 patients with stiff person syndrome and related syndromes. Glycine receptor antibodies are strongly associated with spinal and brainstem disorders, and the majority of patients have progressive encephalomyelitis with rigidity and myoclonus. The antibodies demonstrate in vitro evidence of pathogenicity and the patients respond well to immunotherapies, contrasting with earlier studies of this syndrome, which indicated a poor prognosis. The presence of glycine receptor antibodies should help to identify a disease that responds to immunotherapies, but these treatments may need to be sustained, relapses can occur and maintenance immunosuppression may be required.
PMCID: PMC4107739  PMID: 24951641
stiff person syndrome; progressive encephalomyelitis with rigidity and myoclonus; autoimmune encephalitis; glycine receptor; autoantibody
2.  John Newsom-Davis: clinician-scientist and so much more 
Brain  2011;134(12):3752-3771.
John Newsom-Davis was born in 1932 and died, aged 74, in 2007. After national service in the Royal Air Force, he read Natural Sciences at Cambridge. Following clinical studies at the Middlesex Hospital, he began research into respiratory neurophysiology with Tom Sears at the National Hospital, Queen Square, in London, and spent 1 year with Fred Plum at Cornell University in New York. After neurology specialist training at Queen Square, he became the director of the Batten Unit, continuing his interest in respiratory physiology. There he began to work on myasthenia gravis in collaboration with Ricardo Miledi at University College London and in 1978, after performing the first studies on plasma exchange in that disease, he established a myasthenia gravis research group at the Royal Free Hospital. There he investigated the role of the thymus in this disease and demonstrated an autoimmune basis for the Lambert Eaton myasthenic syndrome and ‘seronegative’ myasthenia. He was awarded the first Medical Research Council Clinical Research Professorship in 1979 but moved to Oxford in 1987 when he was elected Action Research Professor of Neurology. While at Oxford, he continued to run a very successful multidisciplinary group, researched further into the thymic abnormalities and cellular immunology of myasthenia, identified antibody-mediated mechanisms in acquired neuromyotonia, and began the molecular work that identified the genetic basis for many forms of congenital myasthenic syndrome. Meanwhile, he was also involved in university and college governance and contributed widely to the Medical Research Council, government committees, research charities and the Association of British Neurologists. Among many honours, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1991, appointed Commander of the British Empire in 1996 and made a Foreign Associate Member of the Institute of Medicine of the United States in 2001. Nearing and following retirement from Oxford, where he continued to see patients with myasthenia, he was the President of the Association of British Neurologists and Editor of Brain, and led a National Institutes of Health-funded international trial of thymectomy.
PMCID: PMC3235562  PMID: 22171357
antibodies; myasthenia gravis; autoimmunity
3.  Intra-cerebral injection of neuromyelitis optica immunoglobulin G and human complement produces neuromyelitis optica lesions in mice 
Brain  2010;133(2):349-361.
Neuromyelitis optica is an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system associated with autoantibodies against the glial water channel protein aquaporin-4. It has recently been reported that immunoglobulin from neuromyelitis optica patients injected peripherally does not cause lesions in naive rats, but only when pre-existing central nervous system inflammation is present. Here, we investigated whether immunoglobulin G from aquaporin-4-autoantibody-positive neuromyelitis optica patients has the potential to damage the central nervous system either alone or in the presence of human complement. Immunoglobulin G from neuromyelitis optica patients did not activate mouse complement and was not pathogenic when injected into mouse brain. However, co-injection of immunoglobulin G from neuromyelitis optica patients with human complement produced neuromyelitis optica-like lesions in mice. Within 12 h of co-injecting immunoglobulin G from neuromyelitis optica patients and human complement, there was a striking loss of aquaporin-4 expression, glial cell oedema, myelin breakdown and axonal injury, but little intra-parenchymal inflammation. At 7 days, there was extensive inflammatory cell infiltration, perivascular deposition of activated complement components, extensive demyelination, loss of aquaporin-4 expression, loss of reactive astrocytes and neuronal cell death. In behavioural studies, mice injected with immunoglobulin G from neuromyelitis optica patients and human complement into the right hemisphere preferentially turned to the right at 7 days. No brain inflammation, demyelination or right-turning behaviour was seen in wild-type mice that received immunoglobulin G from non-neuromyelitis optica patients with human complement, or in aquaporin-4-null mice that received immunoglobulin G from neuromyelitis optica patients with human complement. We conclude that co-injection of immunoglobulin G from neuromyelitis optica patients with human complement reproduces the key histological features of neuromyelitis optica and that aquaporin-4 is necessary and sufficient for immunoglobulin G from neuromyelitis optica patients to exert its effect. In our mouse model, immunoglobulin G from neuromyelitis optica patients does not require pre-existing central nervous system inflammation to produce lesions.
PMCID: PMC2822632  PMID: 20047900
autoantibody; immunoglobulin; Devic’s syndrome; mouse model; water channel
4.  Corticomotoneuronal function and hyperexcitability in acquired neuromyotonia 
Brain  2010;133(9):2727-2733.
Acquired neuromyotonia encompasses a group of inflammatory disorders characterized by symptoms reflecting peripheral nerve hyperexcitability, which may be clinically confused in the early stages with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Despite a clear peripheral nerve focus, it remains unclear whether the ectopic activity in acquired neuromyotonia receives a central contribution. To clarify whether cortical hyperexcitability contributes to development of clinical features of acquired neuromyotonia, the present study investigated whether threshold tracking transcranial magnetic stimulation could detect cortical hyperexcitability in acquired neuromyotonia, and whether this technique could differentiate acquired neuromyotonia from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Cortical excitability studies were undertaken in 18 patients with acquired neuromyotonia and 104 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, with results compared to 62 normal controls. Short-interval intracortical inhibition in patients with acquired neuromyotonia was significantly different when compared to patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (averaged short interval intracortical inhibition acquired neuromyotonia 11.3 ± 1.9%; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 2.6 ± 0.9%, P < 0.001). In addition, the motor evoked potential amplitudes (acquired neuromyotonia 21.0 ± 3.1%; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 38.1 ± 2.2%, P < 0.0001), intracortical facilitation (acquired neuromyotonia −0.9 ± 1.3%; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis −2.3 ± 0.6%, P < 0.0001), resting motor thresholds (acquired neuromyotonia 62.2 ± 1.6%; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 57.2 ± 0.9%, P < 0.05) and cortical silent period durations (acquired neuromyotonia 212.8 ± 6.9 ms; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 181.1 ± 4.3 ms, P < 0.0001) were significantly different between patients with acquired neuromyotonia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Threshold tracking transcranial magnetic stimulation established corticomotoneuronal integrity in acquired neuromyotonia, arguing against a contribution of central processes to the development of nerve hyperexcitability in acquired neuromyotonia.
PMCID: PMC2929332  PMID: 20736187
acquired neuromyotonia; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; cortical excitability
5.  Antibodies to Kv1 potassium channel-complex proteins leucine-rich, glioma inactivated 1 protein and contactin-associated protein-2 in limbic encephalitis, Morvan’s syndrome and acquired neuromyotonia 
Brain  2010;133(9):2734-2748.
Antibodies that immunoprecipitate 125I-α-dendrotoxin-labelled voltage-gated potassium channels extracted from mammalian brain tissue have been identified in patients with neuromyotonia, Morvan’s syndrome, limbic encephalitis and a few cases of adult-onset epilepsy. These conditions often improve following immunomodulatory therapies. However, the proportions of the different syndromes, the numbers with associated tumours and the relationships with potassium channel subunit antibody specificities have been unclear. We documented the clinical phenotype and tumour associations in 96 potassium channel antibody positive patients (titres >400 pM). Five had thymomas and one had an endometrial adenocarcinoma. To define the antibody specificities, we looked for binding of serum antibodies and their effects on potassium channel currents using human embryonic kidney cells expressing the potassium channel subunits. Surprisingly, only three of the patients had antibodies directed against the potassium channel subunits. By contrast, we found antibodies to three proteins that are complexed with 125I-α-dendrotoxin-labelled potassium channels in brain extracts: (i) contactin-associated protein-2 that is localized at the juxtaparanodes in myelinated axons; (ii) leucine-rich, glioma inactivated 1 protein that is most strongly expressed in the hippocampus; and (iii) Tag-1/contactin-2 that associates with contactin-associated protein-2. Antibodies to Kv1 subunits were found in three sera, to contactin-associated protein-2 in 19 sera, to leucine-rich, glioma inactivated 1 protein in 55 sera and to contactin-2 in five sera, four of which were also positive for the other antibodies. The remaining 18 sera were negative for potassium channel subunits and associated proteins by the methods employed. Of the 19 patients with contactin-associated protein-antibody-2, 10 had neuromyotonia or Morvan’s syndrome, compared with only 3 of the 55 leucine-rich, glioma inactivated 1 protein-antibody positive patients (P < 0.0001), who predominantly had limbic encephalitis. The responses to immunomodulatory therapies, defined by changes in modified Rankin scores, were good except in the patients with tumours, who all had contactin-associated-2 protein antibodies. This study confirms that the majority of patients with high potassium channel antibodies have limbic encephalitis without tumours. The identification of leucine-rich, glioma inactivated 1 protein and contactin-associated protein-2 as the major targets of potassium channel antibodies, and their associations with different clinical features, begins to explain the diversity of these syndromes; furthermore, detection of contactin-associated protein-2 antibodies should help identify the risk of an underlying tumour and a poor prognosis in future patients.
PMCID: PMC2929337  PMID: 20663977
autoimmune encephalitis; thymoma; epilepsy; neuromuscular junction; neuronal autoantibodies; Caspr2; Lgi1; VGKC
6.  N-methyl-d-aspartate antibody encephalitis: temporal progression of clinical and paraclinical observations in a predominantly non-paraneoplastic disorder of both sexes 
Brain  2010;133(6):1655-1667.
Antibodies to the N-methyl-d-aspartate subtype of glutamate receptor have been associated with a newly-described encephalopathy that has been mainly identified in young females with ovarian tumours. However, the full clinical spectrum and treatment responses are not yet clear. We established a sensitive cell-based assay for detection of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antibodies in serum or cerebrospinal fluid, and a quantitative fluorescent immunoprecipitation assay for serial studies. Although there was marked intrathecal synthesis of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antibodies, the absolute levels of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antibodies were higher in serum than in cerebrospinal fluid. N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antibodies were of the immunoglobulin G1 subclass and were able to activate complement on N-methyl d-aspartate receptor-expressing human embryonic kidney cells. From questionnaires returned on 44 N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antibody-positive patients, we identified a high proportion without a detected tumour (35/44, 80%: follow-up 3.6–121 months, median 16 months). Among the latter were 15 adult females (43%), 10 adult males (29%) and 10 children (29%), with four in the first decade of life. Overall, there was a high proportion (29%) of non-Caucasians. Good clinical outcomes, as defined by reductions in modified Rankin scores, correlated with decreased N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antibody levels and were associated with early (<40 days) administration of immunotherapies in non-paraneoplastic patients (P < 0.0001) and earlier tumour removal in paraneoplastic patients (P = 0.02). Ten patients (23%) who were first diagnosed during relapses had no evidence of tumours but had received minimal or no immunotherapy during earlier episodes. Temporal analysis of the onset of the neurological features suggested progression through two main stages. The time of onset of the early features, characterized by neuropsychiatric symptoms and seizures preceded by a median of 10–20 days, the onset of movement disorders, reduction in consciousness and dysautonomia. This temporal dichotomy was also seen in the timing of cerebrospinal fluid, electroencephalographic and in the rather infrequent cerebral imaging changes. Overall, our data support a model in which the early features are associated with cerebrospinal fluid lymphocytosis, and the later features with appearance of oligoclonal bands. The immunological events and neuronal mechanisms underlying these observations need to be explored further, but one possibility is that the early stage represents diffusion of serum antibodies into the cortical grey matter, whereas the later stage results from secondary expansion of the immunological repertoire within the intrathecal compartment acting on subcortical neurons. Four patients, who only had temporal lobe epilepsy without oligoclonal bands, may represent restriction to the first stage.
PMCID: PMC2877907  PMID: 20511282
N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor-antibody encephalitis; autoimmunity; non-paraneoplastic; paraneoplastic; immunotherapy-responsive
7.  IgG1 antibodies to acetylcholine receptors in ‘seronegative’ myasthenia gravis† 
Brain  2008;131(7):1940-1952.
Only around 80% of patients with generalized myasthenia gravis (MG) have serum antibodies to acetylcholine receptor [AChR; acetylcholine receptor antibody positive myasthenia gravis (AChR-MG)] by the radioimmunoprecipitation assay used worldwide. Antibodies to muscle specific kinase [MuSK; MuSK antibody positive myasthenia gravis (MuSK-MG)] make up a variable proportion of the remaining 20%. The patients with neither AChR nor MuSK antibodies are often called seronegative (seronegative MG, SNMG). There is accumulating evidence that SNMG patients are similar to AChR-MG in clinical features and thymic pathology. We hypothesized that SNMG patients have low-affinity antibodies to AChR that cannot be detected in solution phase assays, but would be detected by binding to the AChRs on the cell membrane, particularly if they were clustered at the high density that is found at the neuromuscular junction. We expressed recombinant AChR subunits with the clustering protein, rapsyn, in human embryonic kidney cells and tested for binding of antibodies by immunofluorescence. To identify AChRs, we tagged either AChR or rapsyn with enhanced green fluorescence protein, and visualized human antibodies with Alexa Fluor-labelled secondary or tertiary antibodies, or by fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS). We correlated the results with the thymic pathology where available. We detected AChR antibodies to rapsyn-clustered AChR in 66% (25/38) of sera previously negative for binding to AChR in solution and confirmed the results with FACS. The antibodies were mainly IgG1 subclass and showed ability to activate complement. In addition, there was a correlation between serum binding to clustered AChR and complement deposition on myoid cells in patients’ thymus tissue. A similar approach was used to demonstrate that MuSK antibodies, although mainly IgG4, were partially IgG1 subclass and capable of activating complement when bound to MuSK on the cell surface. These observations throw new light on different forms of MG paving the way for improved diagnosis and management, and the approaches used have applicability to other antibody-mediated conditions.
PMCID: PMC2442426  PMID: 18515870
myasthenia gravis; seronegative MG; AChR antibodies; IgG subclasses; complement activation

Results 1-7 (7)