Different age-related effects of thymectomy in myasthenia gravis: Role of thymoma, zinc, thymulin, IL-2 and IL-6

Eugenio Mocchegiani, Robertina Giacconi, Mario Muzzioli, Nazzarena Gasparini, Leandro Provinciali, Liana Spazzafumo, Federico Licastro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Different age-related immune pathogenetic mechanisms in myasthenia gravis (MG) have been suggested because of restoration after thymectomy (Tx) of altered zinc, thymulin (TH) and T-cell subsets exclusively in early-onset patients (younger <50 years), not in late-onset patients (older > 50 years). In this context interleukin-2 (IL-2), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and thymoma are crucial because both involved in MG pathogenesis and correlated with acetylcholine receptors (AchRs) Ab production. Moreover, IL-2 and IL-6 are zinc-dependent, are altered in aging and related with zinc and TH age- dependent declines. Moreover, zinc is relevant for immune efficiency. In order to confirm these different age-related pathogenetic mechanisms further, the role of thymoma, zinc, TH, IL-2 and IL-6 is studied in MG patients with generalized MG with and without thymoma before and 1 month and 1 year after Tx. The high IL-2, IL-6, zinc, and AChR Ab levels observed before Tx are significantly correlated each other in younger MG patients (<50 years) independently by thymoma and in older MG patients (> 50 years) with thymoma. No correlations exist in older MG patients without thymoma. Thymulin is not correlated with other parameters considered to be both in younger and older MG patients independently by the thymoma. Thymectomy restores zinc; immune parameters and AChR Ab are exclusively in the younger group, not in the older one. These findings suggest that IL-2 and IL-6, via zinc, rather than TH, may be involved in different age-related pathogenetic mechanisms mainly in early- onset MG. By contrast, thymoma may be involved in MG etiology in late-onset representing, as such, a useful discriminant tool for MG etiology between early and late-onset MG patients. Because autoimmune phenomena may rise in aging, a parallelism with altered immune functions during aging is discussed. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-91
Number of pages13
JournalMechanisms of Ageing and Development
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 2000


  • AChR Ab
  • Aging
  • IL-2
  • IL-6
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Thymectomy
  • Thymoma
  • Thymulin
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Biochemistry
  • Developmental Biology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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