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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1989 Mar;86(6):1998-2002.

Influenza viruses induce autoantibodies to a brain-specific 37-kDa protein in rabbit.

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  • 1Section on Brain Biochemistry, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Immunization of rabbits with certain H1N1 influenza viruses, including the neurotropic strains NWS/33 and WSN/33 and the New Jersey/76 strain, resulted in the production of autoantibodies to a brain-specific protein of 37 kDa that is present in various species, including humans. Autoantibodies were produced to brain only; various other tissues tested were negative. These antibodies were not elicited by other influenza A or B viruses, including closely related recombinant strains, but were elicited by the isolated hemagglutinin of A/Bellamy/42 strain and by formaldehyde-fixed WSN virus--demonstrating that infection was not essential for the induction of autoantibodies. In histological studies, reaction with anti-viral antisera was specific to gray matter and was confined to sera that recognized the 37-kDa protein. Antibody binding was prominent in regions comprised of neuronal cell bodies in cellular layers of the dentate gyrus, hippocampus, cerebral cortex, and cerebellum and was undetectable in myelin-rich regions, such as the corpus callosum. The 37-kDa protein, therefore, appears to be a neuronal antigen. Antibodies directed against this protein may be involved in the pathogenesis of one or more of the neuropsychiatric disorders that occur after infection with influenza.

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