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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2009 Nov;34(12):2489-96. doi: 10.1038/npp.2009.77. Epub 2009 Aug 12.

Anti-brain autoantibodies and altered excitatory neurotransmitters in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Division of Psychological Medicie and Psychiatry, Section of Neuroimaging, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK.


Although serum autoantibodies directed against basal ganglia (BG) implicate autoimmunity in the pathogenesis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it is unclear whether these antibodies can cross the blood-brain barrier to bind against BG or other components of the OCD circuit. It is also unclear how they might lead to hyperactivity in the OCD circuit. We examined this by investigating the presence of autoantibodies directed against the BG or thalamus in the serum as well as CSF of 23 OCD patients compared with 23 matched psychiatrically normal controls using western blot. We further investigated CSF amino acid (glutamate, GABA, taurine, and glycine) levels and also examined the extent to which these levels were related to the presence of autoantibodies. There was evidence of significantly more binding of CSF autoantibodies to homogenate of BG as well as to homogenate of thalamus among OCD patients compared with controls. There was no significant difference in binding between patient and control sera except for a trend toward more bands to BG and thalamic protein corresponding to 43 kD among OCD patients compared with controls. CSF glutamate and glycine levels were also significantly higher in OCD patients compared with controls, and further multivariate analysis of variance showed that CSF glycine levels were higher in those OCD patients who had autoantibodies compared with those without. The results of our study implicate autoimmune mechanisms in the pathogenesis of OCD and also provide preliminary evidence that autoantibodies against BG and thalamus may cause OCD by modulating excitatory neurotransmission.

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