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Aquaporin-4 autoantibodies cause asymptomatic aquaporin-4 loss and activate astrocytes in mouse

Chan, KH;Zhang, R;Kwan, JS;Guo, VY;Ho, PW;Ho, JW;Chu, AC;

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is a central nervous system inflammatory demyelinating disorder. Up to 90% of patients are seropositive for aquaporin-4 autoantibodies (AQP4 Ab). The pathogenetic mechanisms underlying clinical onset and relapse of NMO are uncertain. Study the pathogenicity of AQP4 Ab in the absence of complement activation. Female C57BL/6N mice (human IgG cannot activate mouse complements) pretreated with complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA, day 0) and pertussis toxin (PTx, day 0 and day 2) were transferred with IgG isolated from serum of healthy subjects or NMO patients (AQP4 Ab-positive or negative) intraperitoneally (day 7-9). Mice were observed for signs of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) by standard 6-grade EAE scores. Spinal cord was obtained at day 11 for immunohistochemistry. None of the mice had clinical signs of encephalomyelitis, inflammatory cells infiltration or demyelination of spinal cord. CFA and PTx induce BBB breakdown evidenced by leakage of human IgG into cord parenchyma. Patchy areas of AQP4 loss were observed in spinal cord of mice transferred with IgG from AQP4 Ab-positive NMO patients but not in mice transferred with IgG from AQP4 Ab-negative NMO patients or healthy subjects; but there was no loss of glial fibrillary acidic protein immunoreactivity in all mice. Markedly increased proliferation of astrocytic processes suggestive of astrocytic activation was observed in mice transferred with IgG from AQP4 Ab-positive patients. AQP4 Ab cause asymptomatic AQP4 loss and astrocytic activation but not myelitis, demyelination or astrocytic cytotoxicity in spinal cord of mouse in the absence of complement activation.