Molecular and clinical diversity in paraneoplastic immunity to Ma proteins

Ann Neurol. 2001 Sep;50(3):339-48.


Antibodies to Ma1 and Ma2 proteins identify a paraneoplastic disorder that affects the limbic system, brain stem, and cerebellum. Preliminary studies suggested the existence of other Ma proteins and different patterns of immune response associated with distinct neurologic symptoms and cancers. In this study, our aim was to isolate the full-length sequence of Ma2 and new family members, identify the major autoantigen of the disorder, and extend the dinical-immunological analysis to 29 patients. Sera from selected patients were used to probe a brainstem cDNA library and isolate the entire Ma2 gene and a new family member, Ma3. Ma3 mRNA is ubiquitously expressed in brain, testis, and several systemic tissues. The variable cellular expression of Ma proteins and analysis of protein motifs suggest that these proteins play roles in the biogenesis of mRNA. Immunoblot studies identify Ma2 as the major autoantigen with unique epitopes recognized by all patients' sera. Eighteen patients had antibodies limited to Ma2: they developed limbic, hypothalamic, and brainstem encephalitis, and 78% had germ-cell tumors of the testis. Eleven patients had antibodies to Ma2 and additional antibodies to Ma1 and/or Ma3; they usually developed additional cerebellar symptoms and more intense brainstem dysfunction, and 82% of these patients had tumors other than germ-cell neoplasms. Overall, 17 of 24 patients (71%) with brain magnetic resonance imaging studies had abnormalities within or outside the temporal lobes, some as contrast-enhancing nodular lesions. A remarkable finding of immunity to Ma proteins is that neurologic symptoms may improve or resolve. This improvement segregated to a group of patients with antibodies limited to Ma2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Antigens / biosynthesis
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Autoantigens / blood
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Brain / immunology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Library
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes, Nervous System / blood
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes, Nervous System / immunology*
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes, Nervous System / pathology
  • Phosphoproteins / biosynthesis
  • Phosphoproteins / immunology*
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Proteins / immunology*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Rats
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein / methods
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / immunology*


  • Antigens
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Autoantigens
  • MA protein, Rous sarcoma virus
  • Ma1 antigen
  • Ma2 antigen
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Viral Matrix Proteins