Autoantibodies against M1 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor in myasthenic disorders


Dr Masaharu Takamori MD, Neurological Center, Kanazawa-Nishi Hospital, 6-15-41, Ekinishi-Honmachi, Kanazawa 920-0025, Japan (tel.: 81-76-233-1811; fax: 81-76-221-8603; e-mail:


The Lambert–Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS), often associated with small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC), is a disorder of acetylcholine (ACh) release from motor nerve terminals. In most patients, it is caused by autoantibodies against the P/Q-type voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCC) that trigger ACh release. However, these antibodies are not detected in approximately 15% of clinically and electrophysiologically typical cases. The M1-type pre-synaptic muscarinic ACh receptor (M1 mAChR) modulates cholinergic neuromuscular transmission by linking to P/Q-type VGCC, and may partially compensate for the reduced calcium entry. Immunoblotting against solubilized human M1 mAChR, we detected autoantibodies in: (a) 14 of 20 (70%) anti-VGCC-positive LEMS patients; (b) all five anti-VGCC-negative LEMS patients, one of whose serum had previously passively transferred LEMS-type electrophysiological defects to mice; (c) all five LEMS patients with autonomic symptoms; (d) seven of 25 (28%) myasthenia gravis (MG) patients in whom increased ACh release partially compensates for post-synaptic defects; (e) none of 10 SCLC patients without LEMS. Although not proving primary pathogenicity of anti-M1 mAChR antibodies, the present results highlight their potential to affect synaptic compensatory mechanisms, more in LEMS than MG.