Paraneoplastic neuronal intermediate filament autoimmunity

Eati Basal, Nicholas Zalewski, Thomas J. Kryzer, Shannon R. Hinson, Yong Guo, Divyanshu Dubey, Eduardo E. Benarroch, Claudia F. Lucchinetti, Sean J. Pittock, Vanda A. Lennon, Andrew McKeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective To describe paraneoplastic neuronal intermediate filament (NIF) autoimmunity. Methods Archived patient and control serum and CSF specimens were evaluated by tissue-based indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA). Autoantigens were identified by Western blot and mass spectrometry. NIF specificity was confirmed by dual tissue section staining and 5 recombinant NIF-specific HEK293 cell-based assays (CBAs, for α-internexin, neurofilament light [NfL], neurofilament medium, or neurofilament heavy chain, and peripherin). NIF-immunoglobulin Gs (IgGs) were correlated with neurologic syndromes and cancers. Results Among 65 patients, NIF-IgG-positive by IFA and CBAs, 33 were female (51%). Median symptom onset age was 62 years (range 18-88). Patients fell into 2 groups, defined by the presence of NfL-IgG (21 patients, who mostly had ≥4 NIF-IgGs detected) or its absence (44 patients, who mostly had ≤2 NIF-IgGs detected). Among NfL-IgG-positive patients, 19/21 had ≥1 subacute onset CNS disorders: cerebellar ataxia (11), encephalopathy (11), or myelopathy (2). Cancers were detected in 16 of 21 patients (77%): carcinomas of neuroendocrine lineage (10) being most common (small cell [5], Merkel cell [3], other neuroendocrine [2]). Two of 257 controls (0.8%, both with small cell carcinoma) were positive by both IFA and CBA. Five of 7 patients with immunotherapy data improved. By comparison, the 44 NfL-IgG-negative patients had findings of unclear significance: diverse nervous system disorders (p = 0.006), as well as limited (p = 0.003) and more diverse (p < 0.0001) cancer accompaniments. Conclusions NIF-IgG detection by IFA, with confirmatory CBA testing that yields a profile including NfL-IgG, defines a paraneoplastic CNS disorder (usually ataxia or encephalopathy) accompanying neuroendocrine lineage neoplasia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1677-E1689
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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