Objective: Glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) catalyzes the conversion of glutamic acid into GABA. GAD autoantibodies (GAD-Ab) have been described in diabetes mellitus and in diseases involving the central nervous system such as stiff-person syndrome and cerebellar ataxia. However, the pathogenic role of GAD-Ab in neurological diseases remains a matter of debate.
Methods: Using neurophysiological and neurochemical methods, we analyzed the effects of intracerebellar and paraspinal administration of GAD-Ab in rats.
Results: Intracerebellar administration of IgG from patients with GAD-Ab and neurological involvement (IgG-GAD) blocked the potentiation of the corticomotor response normally associated with trains of repetitive peripheral nerve stimulation. When injected in the lumbar paraspinal region, IgG-GAD induced continuous motor activity with repetitive discharges, abnormal exteroceptive reflexes, and increased excitability of anterior horn neurons, as assessed by F/M ratios. Furthermore, IgG-GAD significantly reduced the N-methyl-D-aspartate-mediated production of nitric oxide in cerebellar nuclei and impaired the synaptic regulation of glutamate after N-methyl-D-aspartate administration. These effects were not observed after administration of IgG from the following groups: (1) patients with GAD-Ab, diabetes mellitus, and without neurological complications; and (2) control patients.
Interpretation: These results indicate that stiff-person syndrome and cerebellar ataxia are the direct consequence of antibody-mediated neuronal dysfunction.