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Arch Neurol. 2010 Oct;67(10):1201-8. doi: 10.1001/archneurol.2010.269.

Quantification and functional characterization of antibodies to native aquaporin 4 in neuromyelitis optica.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universität München, München, Germany.



Antibodies targeting membrane proteins play an important role in various autoimmune diseases of the nervous system. So far, assays allowing proper analysis of such autoantibodies are largely missing. A serum autoantibody to aquaporin 4 (AQP4) is associated with neuromyelitis optica (NMO). Although several assays are able to detect this autoantibody, they do not allow determination of the biological activity of anti-AQP4 antibodies.


To develop a bioassay for quantification and characterization of human anti-AQP4 antibodies.


We developed a novel bioassay for quantification and characterization of human anti-AQP4 antibodies based on high-level expression of native AQP4 (nAQP4) protein on the surface of human astroglioma cells. The test was validated in 2 independent cohorts of patients with NMO spectrum disease.


We detected anti-nAQP4-IgG with a sensitivity of 57.9% and specificity of 100% in patients with NMO spectrum diseases, suggesting that our bioassay is at least as sensitive and specific as the gold-standard NMO-IgG assay. The anti-AQP4 antibodies belonged predominantly to the IgG1 isotype and bound with high affinity to the extracellular domain of nAQP4. Our data suggest that the autoantibody exerts pathological properties because nAQP4-IgG-positive sera induced cell death of nAQP4-expressing cells by antibody-dependent cellular natural killer cell cytotoxic effect and complement activation. Furthermore, nAQP4-IgG titers strongly correlated with in vitro cytotoxic effect.


In NMO, this assay may help to unravel the biological function of anti-nAQP4-IgG. Our findings demonstrate the potential of bioassays to characterize biologically relevant antibodies in human autoimmune diseases.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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