Role for antibodies in altering behavior and movement



At the past meeting of INSAR, the role of autoimmunity was discussed in an educational session. This article summarizes this discussion. In immune-mediated diseases, antibodies can contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease and are sometimes the force that drives the disease process. This concept has not been established for autism. In autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), antibodies are found to react with double-stranded DNA. These antibodies also cross-react with N-methyl-D aspartate receptors. Many SLE patients suffer neurologic syndromes of the central nervous system (CNS). Similarly individuals infected with Group A streptococcus (GAS) have antibodies against the GAS carbohydrate, which cross-react with tubulin and lysoganglioside GM1 on neurons. During the acute stage of infection, GAS-infected patients develop Syndenham chorea where the disease process is driven in part by these cross-reactive antibodies. As the antibody levels decrease, the clinical features of Syndenham chorea resolve. In these two immune-mediated diseases, antibodies clearly play a role in the pathogenesis of the diseases. There are reports that mothers of individuals with autism have antibodies that react with brain proteins and when these antibodies are passively transferred to pregnant non-human primates or rodents the offspring has behavioral and nervous system changes. It is still not clear whether the antibodies found in mothers of individuals with autism actually play a role in the disease. More studies need to be performed to identify the proteins recognized by the antibodies and to determine how these could affect development, behavior and changes within the CNS.