To determine the pathogenesis of anti-muscle-specific kinase (MuSK) myasthenia, a newly described severe form of myasthenia gravis associated with MuSK antibodies characterized by focal muscle weakness and wasting and absence of acetylcholine receptor antibodies, and to determine whether antibodies to MuSK, a crucial protein in the formation of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) during development, can induce disease in the mature NMJ. Design, Setting, and
Lewis rats were immunized with a single injection of a newly discovered splicing variant of MuSK, MuSK 60, which has been demonstrated to be expressed primarily in the mature NMJ. Animals were assessed clinically, serologically, and by repetitive stimulation of the median nerve. Muscle tissue was examined immunohistochemically and by electron microscopy.
Animals immunized with 100 μg of MuSK 60 developed severe progressive weakness starting at day 16, with 100% mortality by day 27. The weakness was associated with high MuSK antibody titers, weight loss, axial muscle wasting, and decrementing compound muscle action potentials. Light and electron microscopy demonstrated fragmented NMJs with varying degrees of postsynaptic muscle end plate destruction along with abnormal nerve terminals, lack of registration between end plates and nerve terminals, local axon sprouting, and extrajunctional dispersion of cholinesterase activity.
These findings support the role of MuSK antibodies in the human disease, demonstrate the role of MuSK not only in the development of the NMJ but also in the maintenance of the mature synapse, and demonstrate involvement of this disease in both presynaptic and postsynaptic components of the NMJ.
"Several studies reported impairment of postsynaptic AChR clusters, associated with evidence of reduced synaptic function (Cole et al., 2010; Jha et al., 2006; Shigemoto et al., 2006; ter Beek et al., 2009). Other studies reported evidence that MuSK autoantibodies caused a combination of pre-and postsynaptic abnormalities (Cole et al., 2008; Klooster et al., 2012; Punga et al., 2011; Richman et al., 2012 ; Viegas et al., 2012). Still other studies reported myopathic changes (Benveniste et al., 2005; Boneva et al., 2006; Martignago et al., 2009). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In myasthenia gravis muscle weakness is caused by autoantibodies against components of the neuromuscular junction. Patient autoantibodies against muscle specific kinase (MuSK) deplete MuSK from the postsynaptic membrane and reproduce signs of myasthenia gravis when injected into mice. Here we have examined the time-course of structural and functional changes that lead up to synaptic failure. C57Bl6J mice received daily injections of anti-MuSK patient IgG for 15days. Mice began to lose weight from day 12 and demonstrated whole-body weakness by day 14. Electromyography indicated synaptic impairment from day 6 in the gastrocnemius muscle and from day 10 in the diaphragm muscle. Confocal microscopy revealed linear declines in the area and density of postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors (3-5% per day) from day 1 through day 15 of the injection series in all five muscles examined. Intracellular recordings from the diaphragm muscle revealed comparable progressive declines in the amplitude of the endplate potential and miniature endplate potential of 3-4% per day. Neither quantal content nor the postsynaptic action potential threshold changed significantly over the injection series. The inverse relationship between the quantal amplitude of a synapse and its quantal content disappeared only late in the injection series (day 10). Our results suggest that the primary myasthenogenic action of anti-MuSK IgG is to cause wastage of postsynaptic acetylcholine receptor density. Consequent reductions in endplate potential amplitudes culminated in failure of neuromuscular transmission.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This article reviews recent findings on factors and mechanisms implicated in the pathogenesis of myasthenia gravis and briefly summarizes data on therapies acting at various stages of the autoimmune process.
Data published over the last year promise to improve understanding of pathogenic mechanisms underlying myasthenia gravis. Animal studies have at last shown that antimuscle-specific kinase (MuSK) autoantibodies, like antiacetylcholine receptor (AChR) autoantibodies, are myasthenogenic. A new autoantigen, the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 4 (LRP4), has been identified in variable proportions of otherwise seronegative patients. Anti-LRP4 antibodies may define a new myasthenia gravis subtype, supporting the concept that myasthenia gravis is not a single disease entity, and that different subtypes can differ in aetiology. Genetic and environmental factors are implicated in myasthenia gravis. The finding of persisting viral infection in the thymus of AChR-myasthenia gravis patients, combined with data on chronic inflammation, suggest that pathogens may favour intrathymic AChR-specific autosensitization and maintenance of autoimmunity in genetically susceptible individuals. Defective immunoregulatory mechanisms, involving pathogenic Th17 and regulatory T cells, contribute to tolerance loss and perpetuation of the autoimmune response in myasthenia gravis patients.
The recent identification of mechanisms initiating and perpetuating autoimmunity in myasthenia gravis may stimulate the development of more effective therapies.
Current opinion in neurology 08/2012; 25(5):621-9. DOI:10.1097/WCO.0b013e328357a829 · 5.31 Impact Factor
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