Autoimmune limbic encephalitis in 39 patients: immunophenotypes and outcomes

Bataller, L.; Kleopa, K. A.; Wu, G. F.; Rossi, J. E.; Rosenfeld, M. R.; Dalmau, J.
April 2007
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry;Apr2007, Vol. 78 Issue 4, p381
Academic Journal
Background: About 40% of patients with limbic encephalitis do not have detectable CNS antibodies. Some of these patients have immune-mediated limbic encephalitis, but their frequency is unknown. Aims: (1) To determine the spectrum of limbic encephalitis identified on clinical grounds in a single institution, and compare it with that in patients referred for antibody analysis. (2) To correlate clinical outcomes with the cellular location of the autoantigens. Methods: Prospective clinical case studies. Immunohistochemistry with rat brain, live hippocampal neurones, HeLa cells expressing Kv potassium channels and immunoblot. Results: In 4 years, 17 patients were identified in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, and the serum or CSF samples of 22 patients diagnosed elsewhere were also studied. 9 of our 17 (53%) patients had antibodies to known neuronal antigens (paraneoplastic or voltage gated potassium channels (VGKCs)) and 5 (29%) to novel cell-membrane antigens (nCMAg) typically expressed in the hippocampus and sometimes in the cerebellum. Considering the entire series, 19 of 39 (49%) patients had antibodies to known antigens, and 17 (44%) to nCMAg. Follow-up (2–48 months, median 19 months) was available for 35 patients. When compared with patients with antibodies to intraneuronal antigens, a significant association with response to treatment was found in those with antibodies to cell-membrane antigens in general (VGKC or nCMAg, p=0.003) or to nCMAg (p=0.006). Conclusions: (1) 82% of patients with limbic encephalitis prospectively identified on clinical grounds had CNS antibodies; (2) responsiveness to treatment is not limited to patients with VGKC antibodies; (3) in many patients (29% from a single institution), the autoantigens were unknown but were found to be highly enriched in neuronal cell membranes of the hippocampus; and (4) these antibodies are associated with a favourable outcome.


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