Immunoregulation in myasthenia gravis

Robin L. Kaufman
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is an autoimmune disorder of neuromuscular transmission. Clinically, the disease is manifested by abnormal muscle fatigue with recovery on resting. Circulating nicotinic acetylcholine receptor antibodies (nAchR Ab) are highly characteristic of myasthenia gravis. These antibodies have been shown to be directly pathogenic at the muscle endplate and are responsible for impaired neuromuscular transmission through several mechanisms. While it is clear that the immune system
more » ... s not function normally in MG, the mechanisms by which the response to nAchR is initiated and perpetuated remain unknown. Moreover, it is not clear whether immunoregulatory defects actually precede development of MG or are secondary features of the disease. The overall goal of the present investigation has been to more clearly define the nature of the immune regulatory defects existing in MG, both at the cellular level and in terms of possible relationship to disease progression. To begin these studies it was necessary to develop an assay that could be used to measure nAchR Ab secreted by lymphocytes in culture. Thus, we modified the original nAchR Ab immunoassay described by Lindstrom (1976) for this purpose. Additionally, in order to gain access to an appropriate patient base for our study, we established a further modification with improved sensitivity for detection of serum nAchR Ab. This important diagnostic test had not been available in this country. Therefore, our assay was made available in Canada for clinical purposes. Through the study of in vitro nAchR Ab and polyclonal IgG secretion by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMNC), we were able to identify two previously unrecognized subgroups of seropositive, generalized MG patients. PBMNC from patients with long disease duration had low capacity for in vitro Ab production (Nonsecretors). Among patients of short disease duration, PBMNC produced nAchR Ab and also secreted higher than normal levels of polyclonal IgG (Secretors). The data suggested that there we [...]
doi:10.14288/1.0100307 fatcat:szzwzbhof5fetf75d2d4mffbly