Antibodies to neuronal surface antigens in patients with a clinical diagnosis of neurodegenerative disorder

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Objectives: Autoimmune encephalitis due to antibodies against neuronal surface antigens (NSA-Ab) frequently presents with cognitive impairment, often as the first and prevalent manifestation, but few studies have systematically assessed the frequency of NSA-Ab in consecutive patients with established neurodegenerative disorders. Methods: We studied sera of 93 patients (41F, 52 M), aged 69.2 ± 9.4 years, with neurodegenerative conditions, and of 50 population controls aged over 60 years. Specific NSA-Abs were investigated by antigen-specific cell-based assays (CBAs). After testing, we evaluated the association between the NSA-Abs and clinical, CSF and radiological features. Results: The patients included 13/93 (13.8%) who had specific antibodies to neuronal surface antigens: 6 GlyR, 3 GABAAR (1 also positive for AMPAR), 2 LGI1, 1 CASPR2 and 1 GABABR. One of the 50 controls (2%) was positive for NMDAR antibody and the others were negative on all tests (P = 0.020). No difference was observed in antibody frequency between patients presenting with parkinsonism and those presenting with dementia (P = 0.55); however, NSA-Ab were more frequent in those with unclassified forms of dementia (5/13, 38.5%) than in those with unclassified parkinsonism (2/9, 22.2%) or with classified forms of dementia (4/43, 9.3%) or parkinsonism (2/28, 7.1%) (P = 0.03). A logistic regression analysis demonstrated that an unclassified diagnosis (P = 0.02) and an irregular progression (P = 0.024) were predictors of seropositive status. Conclusions: NSA-Abs are relatively frequent in patients with neurodegenerative disorders, particularly in those with an irregular disease progression of atypical clinical features, inconsistent with a recognized diagnosis. The significance of these antibodies and their possible primary or secondary roles need to be investigated in prospective studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-112
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Autoimmune dementia
  • Autoimmune encephalitis
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Neuronal surface antibodies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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