J Clin Neurol.  2020 Jul;16(3):470-479. 10.3988/jcn.2020.16.3.470.

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

  • 1Department of Neurology, The Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.
  • 2Institute of Physical Science and Information Technology, Anhui University, Hefei, China.
  • 3Chinese Academy of Sciences, Key Laboratory of Regenerative Biology, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China.


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.
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.
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.
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 antiNFM antibody status.


anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor encephalitis; autoantibodies; HEK293 cells; magnetic resonance imaging
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