Paraneoplastic IgG striational autoantibodies produced by clonal thymic B cells and in serum of patients with myasthenia gravis and thymoma react with titin

C. L. Williams, J. E. Hay, T. W. Huiatt, V. A. Lennon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Autoantibodies with heterogeneous specificities for contractile elements of striated muscle are found in 80 to 90% of patients who have myasthenia gravis (MG) with thymoma. The stimulus for production of these paraneoplastic striational autoantibodies (StrAb) is unknown. One approach to understanding their association with MG and thymoma is to define the antigenic specificities of monoclonal StrAb secreted by B cell lines established from patients who have MG and thymoma. Here, we report the isolation from a single patient of two independent thymic B cell clones secreting StrAb of IgG isotype. In immunoblots, both StrAb bound monospecifically to an antigen of human skeletal muscle that comigrated with the high molecular weight protein, titin. The pattern of immunofluorescence staining yielded by both antibodies in cultured human muscle cells was similar to that produced by rabbit polyclonal anti-titin antibodies. Each monoclonal antibody bound to a different region of the sarcomere in stretched myofibrils; these corresponded to sites previously reported to bind murine anti-titin monoclonal antibodies. The pattern of sarcomere immunostaining produced by combining the two human monoclonal antibodies was indistinguishable from that produced by serum IgG from the patient whose thymus yielded the B cell clones. Thus, the monoclonal antibodies appear to identify two epitopes of titin that are recognized by IgG StrAb in serum. The finding that IgG anti-titin autoantibodies are restricted to serum of MG patients who have thymoma suggests that titin is a major specificity of IgG StrAb. Our additional finding that anti-titin IgG binds to striated elements in medullary myoid cells of the human thymus supports the hypothesis that StrAb represent an intrathymic B cell immune response that is initiated by autoantigens that are rendered immunogenic for helper T cells in the course of neoplastic transformation to thymoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-336
Number of pages6
JournalLaboratory Investigation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1992


  • Autoimmunity
  • Monoclonal autoantibodies
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Thymic tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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