Spontaneously occurring neutralizing antibodies against granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor in patients with autoimmune disease

Immunology. 1999 Jul;97(3):526-32. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2567.1999.00806.x.


There is increasing evidence that spontaneous anticytokine autoantibodies are associated with chronic infections and autoimmune diseases. We report the sporadic occurrence in autoimmune diseases of such autoantibodies to granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), a cytokine involved in inflammation and the regulation of proliferation, differentiation and function of granulocytic and monocytic cell lineages. In 41 of 425 patients tested, we found low to moderate levels of autoantibodies binding to GM-CSF in serum or plasma. These were most prevalent in patients with myasthenia gravis (MG). However, neutralizing autoantibodies against GM-CSF were very rare, being found in only three patients. Two had autoimmune MG, one with thymoma (Patient A) and the other (Patient B) with 'seronegative' MG, i.e. without the antiacetylcholine receptor autoantibodies characteristic of most MG patients, and a third (Patient D) had multiple sclerosis. Only very limited amounts of Patient A and Patient D serum/plasma were available for analysis and therefore further studies were carried out on the more plentiful samples from Patient B. The anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies of Patient B were predominantly polyclonal immunoglobulin G and strongly neutralized recombinant human (rh) GM-CSF derived from different expression systems. They had similar immunological and immunochemical characteristics to anti-GM-CSF antibodies that developed in immunocompetent colorectal carcinoma patients following (rh)GM-CSF therapy. In serial samples from Patient B, the anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies were undetectable from diagnosis at age 8 years until at least age 13, but then developed spontaneously during (temporary) withdrawal of immunosuppressive treatment. Their neutralizing activity has persisted since their first detection at age 15 years 1 month, and was at its highest level recently at age 17 years 7 months. There was no obvious association with other autoimmune phenomena, nor were any haematological deficiencies overtly manifested, suggesting that any loss of GM-CSF function may have been compensated for by other cytokines.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Immunologic
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Myasthenia Gravis / immunology
  • Recombinant Proteins


  • Autoantibodies
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor