Anti-LRP4 autoantibodies in AChR- and MuSK-antibody-negative myasthenia gravis
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Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an autoimmune disorder characterized by a defect in synaptic transmission at the neuromuscular junction causing fluctuating muscle weakness with a decremental response to repetitive nerve stimulation or altered jitter in single-fiber electromyography (EMG). Approximately 80% of all myasthenia gravis patients have autoantibodies against the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in their serum. Autoantibodies against the tyrosine kinase muscle-specific kinase (MuSK) are responsible for 5–10% of all myasthenia gravis cases. The autoimmune target in the remaining cases is unknown. Recently, low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 4 (LRP4) has been identified as the agrin receptor. LRP4 interacts with agrin, and the binding of agrin activates MuSK, which leads to the formation of most if not all postsynaptic specializations, including aggregates containing acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) in the junctional plasma membrane. In the present study we tested if autoantibodies against LRP4 are detectable in patients with myasthenia gravis. To this end we analyzed 13 sera from patients with generalized myasthenia gravis but without antibodies against AChR or MuSK. The results showed that 12 out of 13 antisera from double-seronegative MG patients bound to proteins concentrated at the neuromuscular junction of adult mouse skeletal muscle and that approximately 50% of the tested sera specifically bound to HEK293 cells transfected with human LRP4. Moreover, 4 out of these 13 sera inhibited agrin-induced aggregation of AChRs in cultured myotubes by more than 50%, suggesting a pathogenic role regarding the dysfunction of the neuromuscular endplate. These results indicate that LRP4 is a novel target for autoantibodies and is a diagnostic marker in seronegative MG patients.
KeywordsMyasthenia gravis Low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein LRP4 Autoimmune disorder
We would like to thank M. Götz for constant support and encouragement. The help from Lin Mei (Augusta, USA) during early stages of the project is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Thomas Klopstock for providing one additional patient serum for this study. Anti-agrin antibodies were generously provided by M. Rüegg (Basel, Switzerland). Initial support was obtained from the German Society for Muscle Disease (S.K.). A.P. is a stipendiary of the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes), and N.-C.C. was supported by the AMGEN Foundation.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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