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BMC Pediatr. 2003 Sep 23;3:11. Epub 2003 Sep 23.

Spectrum of centrosome autoantibodies in childhood varicella and post-varicella acute cerebellar ataxia.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Dr, NW, Calgary, AB T2N 4N1, Canada.



Sera from children with post-varicella infections have autoantibodies that react with centrosomes in brain and tissue culture cells. We investigated the sera of children with infections and post-varicella ataxia and related conditions for reactivity to five recombinant centrosome proteins: gammagamma-enolase, pericentrin, ninein, PCM-1, and Mob1.


Sera from 12 patients with acute post-varicella ataxia, 1 with post-Epstein Barr virus (EBV) ataxia, 5 with uncomplicated varicella infections, and other conditions were tested for reactivity to cryopreserved cerebellum tissue and recombinant centrosome proteins. The distribution of pericentrin in the cerebellum was studied by indirect immunofluorescence (IIF) using rabbit antibodies to the recombinant protein. Antibodies to phospholipids (APL) were detected by ELISA.


Eleven of 12 children with post-varicella ataxia, 4/5 children with uncomplicated varicella infections, 1/1 with post-EBV ataxia, 2/2 with ADEM, 1/2 with neuroblastoma and ataxia, and 2/2 with cerebellitis had antibodies directed against 1 or more recombinant centrosome antigens. Antibodies to pericentrin were seen in 5/12 children with post-varicella ataxia but not in any of the other sera tested. IIF demonstrated that pericentrin is located in axons and centrosomes of cerebellar cells. APL were detected in 75% of the sera from children with post-varicella ataxia and 50% of children with varicella without ataxia and in none of the controls.


This is the first study to show the antigen specificity of anti-centrosome antibodies in children with varicella. Our data suggest that children with post-varicella ataxia have unique autoantibody reactivity to pericentrin.

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