Serum and CSF neurofilament light chain levels in antibody-mediated encephalitis

Sara Mariotto, Alberto Gajofatto, Luigi Zuliani, Marco Zoccarato, Matteo Gastaldi, Diego Franciotta, Gaetano Cantalupo, Francesca Piardi, Alberto Polo, Daniela Alberti, Stefano Sartori, Gianluigi Zanusso, Luigi Agrò, Rita Demurtas, GianPietro Sechi, Elia Sechi, Salvatore Monaco, Sergio Ferrari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Circulating and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) neurofilament light chain (NfL) levels represent a reliable indicator of disease activity and axonal damage in different neuroinflammatory conditions. Recently, high CSF NfL levels have been detected in active autoimmune encephalitis, as opposed to significant lower levels after clinical improvement. The aim of the present study was to evaluate serum and CSF NfL concentration in patients with autoimmune encephalitis and to analyse the association between NfL levels and clinical, MRI, and CSF data. We retrospectively included 25 patients with neurological syndromes associated with autoantibodies to neuronal cell surface antigens and we collected clinical, MRI, CSF, and follow-up data. Using an ultrasensitive method (Simoa, Quanterix), we measured NfL levels in serum and CSF samples of all patients and in 25 sera of healthy controls. Serum NfL levels were higher in all cases, including 20 patients with inflammatory MRI/CSF features and 5 non-inflammatory cases (median 16.9 pg/ml, range 4.5-90) than in controls (median 6.9 pg/ml, range 2.7-12.8; p < 0.001). A correlation between serum and CSF NfL levels was found (r = 0.461, p = 0.023), whereas no significant association was observed between NfL levels and clinical, MRI/CSF inflammatory burden, and antibody type. In the 13 available follow-up samples, correlation between disease activity and NfL values was also observed. In conclusion, NfL levels are significantly increased in the serum of patients with antibody-mediated encephalitis, independently of the MRI/CSF inflammatory profile. These findings support the presence of ongoing axonal damage and suggest the co-occurrence of different mechanisms for neuronal/axonal involvement in antibody-associated CNS syndromes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1643-1648
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 3 2019

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