Frequency and syndrome specificity of antibodies to aquaporin-4 in neurological patients with rheumatic disorders


  • S. Jarius
  • C. Jacobi
  • J. de Seze
  • H. Zephir
  • F. Paul
  • D. Franciotta
  • P. Rommer
  • S. Mader
  • I. Kleiter
  • M. Reindl
  • G. Akman-Demir
  • T. Seifert-Held
  • W. Kristoferitsch
  • A. Melms
  • K.P. Wandinger
  • B. Wildemann


  • Multiple Sclerosis Journal


  • Mult Scler J 17 (9): 1067-1073


  • BACKGROUND: A new autoantibody (termed NMO-IgG, or AQP4-Ab) has recently been described in patients with neuromyelitis optica (NMO) and its formes frustes, longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis (LETM) and recurrent optic neuritis (rON). However, AQP4-Ab has been found also in patients with co-existing rheumatic diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or Sjogren's syndrome (SS), conditions which are characterized by broad, polyspecific B cell activation. OBJECTIVES: In this study, we aimed at evaluating the syndrome specificity and frequency of AQP4-Ab in patients with rheumatic diseases and neurological symptoms. METHODS: For this purpose, serum samples from 109 neurological patients with established connective tissue disorders (CTD) (n = 54), possible CTD (n = 42), or vasculitis (n = 13) were analysed for the presence of AQP4-Ab by a cell-based assay employing recombinant human AQP4. RESULTS: AQP4-Ab was detectable in 31/40 (78%) patients with CTD and NMO spectrum disorders (median titre, 1:1000) but in none of the samples obtained from patients with CTD or vasculitis and neurological disorders other than NMO, LETM, or rON (n = 69). CONCLUSION: The high syndrome specificity of the antibody for neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSDs) in patients with CTD supports the concept of AQP4-Ab being involved in the pathogenesis of these neurological conditions, and argues against AQP4-Ab simply being part of the polyclonal B cell activation generally associated with rheumatic diseases. Moreover, the finding that AQP4-Ab is present in patients with CTD and co-existing NMOSD with approximately the same frequency as in patients without CTD strengthens the case of CTD and AQP4-Ab positive NMOSD representing two co-existing yet distinct entities in the majority of patients.