Background: Antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD-Ab) are described in patients with insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes mellitus (IDDM), in stiff-man syndrome, and, recently, in a few patients with cerebellar ataxia.
Objectives: To show a link between GAD-Ab and some patients with cerebellar ataxia and to clarify their clinical and immunologic profiles.
Methods: Serum samples were selected from 9000 samples of 4 laboratories. The selection criterion was an immunohistochemical pattern compatible with GAD-Ab that was confirmed by radioimmunoassay. We identified 22 patients with stiff-man syndrome and 14 with cerebellar ataxia and GAD-Ab.
Results: Thirteen of the 14 patients with cerebellar ataxia and GAD-Ab were women, and 11 had late-onset IDDM. Patients did not have clinical or radiologic evidence of brainstem involvement. Ten patients had oligoclonal IgG bands in the cerebrospinal fluid, and intrathecal GAD-Ab synthesis was observed in 5 of the 6 patients studied. The level of GAD-Ab of these patients was similar to those with stiff-man syndrome and significantly higher than those with IDDM or with polyendocrine autoimmunity (P<.001). However, the GAD-Ab levels of 6 of the 9 patients with polyendocrine autoimmunity overlapped with those of patients with cerebellar ataxia.
Conclusions: These results suggest a link between high level of GAD-Ab and some cases of cerebellar ataxia, particularly women with IDDM. If high serum levels of GAD-Ab are detected, the cerebrospinal fluid should be evaluated for the presence of oligoclonal IgG bands and intrathecal synthesis of GAD-Ab to further prove an autoimmune origin of the syndrome.