Objective: Etiologically unexplained disorders of language and social development have often been reported to improve in patients treated with immune-modulating regimens. Here we determined the frequency of autoantibodies to brain among such children.
Design: We collected sera from a cohort of children with (1) pure Landau-Kleffner syndrome (n = 2), (2) Landau-Kleffner syndrome variant (LKSV, n = 11), and (3) autistic spectrum disorder (ASD, n = 11). None had received immune-modulating treatment before the serum sample was obtained. Control sera (n = 71) were from 29 healthy children, 22 with non-neurologic illnesses (NNIs), and 20 children with other neurologic disorders (ONDs). We identified brain autoantibodies by immunostaining of human temporal cortex and antinuclear autoantibodies using commercially available kits.
Results: IgG anti-brain autoantibodies were present in 45% of sera from children with LKSV, 27% with ASD, and 10% with ONDs compared with 2% from healthy children and control children with NNIs. IgM autoantibodies were present in 36% of sera from children with ASD, 9% with LKSV, and 15% with ONDs compared with 0% of control sera. Labeling studies identified one antigenic target to be endothelial cells. Antinuclear antibodies with titers >/=1:80 were more common in children with ASD and control children with ONDs.
Conclusion: Children with LKSV and ASD have a greater frequency of serum antibodies to brain endothelial cells and to nuclei than children with NNIs or healthy children. The presence of these antibodies raises the possibility that autoimmunity plays a role in the pathogenesis of language and social developmental abnormalities in a subset of children with these disorders.