A longitudinal study of vasopressin cell antibodies, posterior pituitary function, and magnetic resonance imaging evaluations in subclinical autoimmune central diabetes insipidus

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1999 Sep;84(9):3047-51. doi: 10.1210/jcem.84.9.5945.


Cytoplasmic autoantibodies to vasopressin-cells (AVPcAb) have been detected not only in patients with overt central diabetes insipidus (CDI), but also in patients with endocrine autoimmune diseases without CDI. This suggests that complete CDI can be preceded by a preclinical stage. Among 878 patients with endocrine autoimmune diseases without CDI, 9 patients found to be AVPcAb positive and 139 AVPcAb-negative controls were enrolled in this open prospective study. They were evaluated for AVPcAb and posterior pituitary function at least yearly for about 4 yr (range, 37-48 months); during this span, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of posterior pituitary and stalk was performed only in the AVPcAb-positive patients. Five of the 9 AVPcAb-positive patients had normal posterior pituitary function at study entry. They were AVPcAb positive throughout the follow-up period. At later stages of the study, 3 of them developed partial CDI, and 1 developed complete CDI. The remaining 4 patients showed impaired response to the water deprivation test at study entry and were diagnosed as having partial CDI. Two of them agreed to receive desmopressin replacement for 1 yr. After this treatment, the patients became negative for AVPcAb and displayed normal posterior pituitary function until the end of the follow-up. Conversely, the 2 untreated patients with partial CDI remained AVPcAb positive. One of them developed overt CDI. None of the controls became AVPcAb positive or developed CDI. The normal hyperintense MRI signal of the posterior pituitary, present at study entry, persisted subsequently in all 9 AVPcAb-positive patients, including those developing overt CDI, only disappearing in the late phase of complete CDI. In asymptomatic subjects, the monitoring of AVPcAb, but not MRI, seems to be useful to predict a progression toward partial/overt CDI. Early desmopressin therapy in patients with partial CDI could interrupt or delay the autoimmune damage and the progression toward clinically overt CDI.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / physiopathology
  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin / therapeutic use
  • Diabetes Insipidus / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Insipidus / immunology*
  • Diabetes Insipidus / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Pituitary Gland, Posterior / immunology*
  • Pituitary Gland, Posterior / pathology
  • Pituitary Gland, Posterior / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vasopressins / analysis*
  • Water Deprivation


  • Autoantibodies
  • Vasopressins
  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin