Autoantibodies to Beta-Adrenergic and Muscarinic cholinergic receptors in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) patients – a validation study in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid from two Swedish cohorts, by Annie Bynke, Per Julin, Carl-Gerhard Gottfries, Harald Heidecke, Carmen Scheibenbogen, Jonas Bergquist in Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health Vol 7, August 2020 [doi.org/10.1016/j.bbih.2020.100107]
- Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is a devastating disorder (with millions of patients worldwide) with unclear etiology and no clear diagnostic biomarker available.
- This study support previous findings that there exists a general pattern of increased antibody levels to adrenergic and muscarinic receptors within the ME patient group.
- No evidence for intrathecal antibody production was found in cerebrospinal fluid. The role of increased autoantibodies in the pathogenesis of ME is still uncertain and further research is needed to evaluate the clinical significance of these findings.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) also known as ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) or ME/SEID (Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disorder), is a disabling and often long-lasting disease that can drastically impair quality of life and physical/social functioning of the patients.
Underlying pathological mechanisms are to a large extent unknown, but the presence of autoantibodies, cytokine pattern deviations and the presentation of cognitive and autonomic nervous system related symptoms provide evidence for ME being an immunological disorder with elements of autoimmunity. Increased levels of autoantibodies binding to adrenergic and muscarinic receptors in ME-patients have been reported. It is hypothesized that these autoantibodies have pathological significance and contribute to the ME-specific symptoms, however, these observations need to be validated.
This study was designed to investigate potential differences in adrenergic and muscarinic receptor autoantibody levels in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples between ME patients and gender and age-matched healthy controls, and to correlate the autoantibody levels to disease severity.
We collected body fluids and health-related questionnaires from two Swedish ME cohorts, plasma and CSF from one of the cohorts (n=24), only plasma from the second cohort (n=24) together with plasma samples (n=24) and CSF (n=6) from healthy controls.
All samples were analyzed for IgG autoantibodies directed against Alpha- (α1, α2) and Beta- (β1-3) adrenergic receptors and Muscarinic (M) 1-5 acetylcholine receptors using an ELISA technique. The questionnaires were used as measures of disease severity.
Significant increases in autoantibody levels in ME patients compared to controls were found for M3 and M4 -receptors in both cohorts and β1, β2, M3 and M4- receptors in one cohort. No significant correlations were found between autoantibody levels and disease severity. No significant levels of autoantibodies were detected in the CSF samples. These findings support previous findings that there exists a general pattern of increased antibody levels to adrenergic and muscarinic receptors within the ME patient group. However, the role of increased adrenergic and muscarinic receptor autoantibodies in the pathogenesis of ME is still uncertain and further research is needed to evaluate the clinical significance of these findings.