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The immunobiology of Guillain‐Barré syndromes

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This presentation highlights aspects of the immunobiology of the Guillain‐Barré syndromes (GBS), the world's leading cause of acute autoimmune neuromuscular paralysis. Understanding the key pathophysiological pathways of GBS and developing rational, specific immunotherapies are essential steps towards improving the clinical outcome of this devastating disorder. Much of the research into GBS over the last decade has focused on the forms mediated by anti-ganglioside antibodies, and we have made substantial progress in our understanding in several related areas. Particular highlights include (a) the emerging correlations between anti-ganglioside antibodies and specific clinical phenotypes, notably between anti-GM1/anti-GD1a antibodies and the acute motor axonal variant and anti-GQ1b/anti-GT1a antibodies and the Miller Fisher syndrome; (b) the identification of molecular mimicry between GBS-associated Campylobacter jejuni oligosaccharides and GM1, GD1a, and GT1a gangliosides as a mechanism for anti-ganglioside antibody induction; (c) the development of rodent models of GBS with sensory ataxic or motor phenotypes induced by immunisation with GD1b or GM1 gangliosides, respectively. Our work has particularly studied the motor nerve terminal as a model site of injury, and through combined active and passive immunisation paradigms, we have developed murine neuropathy phenotypes mediated by anti-ganglioside antibodies. This has been achieved through use of glycosyltransferase and complement regulator knock-out mice, both for cloning anti-ganglioside antibodies and inducing disease. Through such studies, we have proven a neuropathogenic role for murine anti-ganglioside antibodies and human GBS-associated antisera and identified several determinants that influence disease expression including (a) the level of immunological tolerance to microbial glycans that mimic self-gangliosides; (b) the ganglioside density in target tissue; (c) the level of complement activation and the neuroprotective effects of endogenous complement regulators; and (d) the role of calcium influx through complement pores in mediating axonal injury. Such studies provide us with clear information on an antibody-mediated pathogenesis model for GBS and should lead to rational therapeutic testing of agents that are potentially suitable for use in humans.
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Keywords: Campylobacter jejuni; Guillain‐Barré syndrome; autoantibodies; complement regulator; gangliosides; glycosyltransferase; membrane attack complex; neuromuscular synapse; neuropathy; tolerance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Division of Clinical Neurosciences, Southern General Hospital, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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