Autoimmune and Paraneoplastic Channelopathies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Thirty years ago, antibodies against the muscle acetylcholine receptor (AChR) were recognized as the cause of myasthenia gravis. Since then, there has been great interest in identifying other neurological disorders associated with autoantibodies. Several other antibody-mediated neuromuscular disorders have been identified, each associated with an antibody against a ligand- or voltage-gated ion channel. The Lambert-Eaton syndrome is caused by antibodies against voltage-gated calcium channels and often occurs in patients with small cell lung cancer. Acquired neuromyotonia is caused by voltage-gated potassium channel antibodies, and autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy is caused by antibodies against the neuronal AChR in autonomic ganglia. There is good evidence that antibodies in these disorders cause changes in synaptic function or neuronal excitability by directly inhibiting ion channel function. More recently, studies have identified ion channel antibodies in patients with certain CNS disorders, such as steroid-responsive encephalitis and paraneoplastic cerebellar ataxia. It remains unclear if antibodies can gain access to the CNS and directly cause ion channel dysfunction. Treatment of autoimmune channelopathies includes drugs that help restore normal neuronal function and treatments to remove pathogenic antibodies (plasma exchange) or modulate the immune response (steroids or immunosuppressants). These disabling neurological disorders may be dramatically responsive to immunomodulatory therapy. Future studies will likely lead to identification of other ion channel antibodies and other autoimmune channelopathies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-314
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Autoantibodies
  • antigenic modulation
  • lung cancer
  • neuromuscular junction
  • pyridostigmine
  • thymoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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