Detection of the anti-Hu antibody in specific regions of the nervous system and tumor from patients with paraneoplastic encephalomyelitis/sensory neuronopathy

Neurology. 1991 Nov;41(11):1757-64. doi: 10.1212/wnl.41.11.1757.


We studied the nervous systems and tumors of five patients with anti-Hu-positive paraneoplastic encephalomyelitis/sensory neuronopathy (PEM/PSN) to determine if the autoantibody found in the serum and CSF was also present in those tissues. Immunohistochemical studies of the nervous system revealed the presence of IgG bound predominantly to the nuclei of most of the neurons and the cytoplasm of some glial cells. IgG was also present to a lesser degree in the neuropil. In brains of patients who died of cancer without the paraneoplastic syndrome, IgG was present in the immediate perivascular areas and to a very limited degree in the neuropil. There was no IgG in neurons, and in only some of the controls a few glial cells showed IgG immunoreactivity in the cytoplasm. The amount of anti-Hu IgG relative to total IgG in various brain regions and tumor was determined by quantitative Western blot analysis. The proportion of anti-Hu IgG was greater in some areas of the brain and tumor than in serum and CSF. Control brains did not contain anti-Hu IgG. There was a limited correlation among (1) the principal clinical symptoms, (2) regions of major tissue injury, and (3) the quantitative anti-Hu IgG distribution. We conclude that although the role of the antibody in the pathogenesis of the disease is still uncertain, its specific localization in the nervous system and tumor suggests an immunologic etiology of this paraneoplastic syndrome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Autoantibodies / metabolism*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Encephalomyelitis / immunology*
  • Encephalomyelitis / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Nervous System / immunology*
  • Nervous System / pathology
  • Nervous System Diseases / immunology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Neurons, Afferent
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / immunology*
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / pathology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Immunoglobulin G