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Clin Exp Immunol. 1999 Apr;116(1):146-52.

Detection of antibodies directed against the cytoplasmic region of the human acetylcholine receptor in sera from myasthenia gravis patients.

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Department of Biochemistry, Hellenic Pasteur Institute, Athens, Greece.


The nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR) is the autoantigen in the human autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis (MG). Anti-AChR antibodies in MG sera bind mainly to conformational epitopes, therefore the determination of their specificities requires the use of native AChR. Antibody competition studies suggest that most MG antibodies are directed against the extracellular part of the molecule, whereas antibodies directed against the cytoplasmic region of the AChR have not been detected. To determine whether even small quantities of such antibodies exist in MG sera, we performed competition experiments based on the inhibition by MG sera of the binding of MoAbs to the human AChR, rather than inhibition by MoAbs of the binding of MG sera performed earlier. When MoAbs directed against cytoplasmic epitopes on the alpha or beta subunits (alpha 373-380 and beta 354-360) were used as test MoAbs, 17% or 9% of MG sera inhibited the binding of the anti-alpha or anti-beta subunit MoAbs, respectively, by > or = 50%. Non-specific inhibition was excluded. These results suggest the presence, in several MG sera, of antibodies directed against cytoplasmic regions of the AChR; yet these antibodies seemed to represent a relatively small proportion of the total anti-AChR antibodies. The corresponding epitopes may be involved in the inducing mechanisms in certain MG cases, and knowledge of the presence of such antibodies may be useful in understanding the autoimmune mechanism involved in MG.

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