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Autoimmune Dis. 2011;2011:213092. doi: 10.4061/2011/213092. Epub 2011 Sep 26.

Inflammation and epstein-barr virus infection are common features of myasthenia gravis thymus: possible roles in pathogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Neurology IV, Neuromuscular Diseases and Neuroimmunology, Neurological Institute C. Besta Foundation, 20133 Milan, Italy.

Abstract

The thymus plays a major role in myasthenia gravis (MG). Our recent finding of a persistent Epstein-Barr (EBV) virus infection in some MG thymuses, combined with data showing that the thymus is in a proinflammatory state in most patients, supports a viral contribution to the pathogenesis of MG. Aim of this study was to gain further evidence for intrathymic chronic inflammation and EBV infection in MG patients. Transcriptional profiling by low density array and real-time PCR showed overexpression of genes involved in inflammatory and immune response in MG thymuses. Real-time PCR for EBV genome, latent (EBER1, EBNA1, LMP1) and lytic (BZLF1) transcripts, and immunohistochemistry for LMP1 and BZLF1 proteins confirmed an active intrathymic EBV infection, further supporting the hypothesis that EBV might contribute to onset or perpetuation of the autoimmune response in MG. Altogether, our results support a role of inflammation and EBV infection as pathogenic features of MG thymus.

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