Protein array profiling of tic patient sera reveals a broad range and enhanced immune response against Group A Streptococcus antigens

PLoS One. 2009 Jul 22;4(7):e6332. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006332.


The human pathogen Group A Streptococcus (Streptococcus pyogenes, GAS) is widely recognized as a major cause of common pharyngitis as well as of severe invasive diseases and non-suppurative sequelae associated with the existence of GAS antigens eliciting host autoantibodies. It has been proposed that a subset of paediatric disorders characterized by tics and obsessive-compulsive symptoms would exacerbate in association with relapses of GAS-associated pharyngitis. This hypothesis is however still controversial. In the attempt to shed light on the contribution of GAS infections to the onset of neuropsychiatric or behavioral disorders affecting as many as 3% of children and adolescents, we tested the antibody response of tic patient sera to a representative panel of GAS antigens. In particular, 102 recombinant proteins were spotted on nitrocellulose-coated glass slides and probed against 61 sera collected from young patients with typical tic neuropsychiatric symptoms but with no overt GAS infection. Sera from 35 children with neither tic disorder nor overt GAS infection were also analyzed. The protein recognition patterns of these two sera groups were compared with those obtained using 239 sera from children with GAS-associated pharyngitis. This comparative analysis identified 25 antigens recognized by sera of the three patient groups and 21 antigens recognized by tic and pharyngitis sera, but poorly or not recognized by sera from children without tic. Interestingly, these antigens appeared to be, in quantitative terms, more immunogenic in tic than in pharyngitis patients. Additionally, a third group of antigens appeared to be preferentially and specifically recognized by tic sera. These findings provide the first evidence that tic patient sera exhibit immunological profiles typical of individuals who elicited a broad, specific and strong immune response against GAS. This may be relevant in the context of one of the hypothesis proposing that GAS antigen-dependent induction of autoantibodies in susceptible individuals may be involved the occurrence of tic disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Pharyngitis / blood
  • Pharyngitis / immunology*
  • Protein Array Analysis*
  • Streptococcal Infections / blood
  • Streptococcal Infections / immunology*
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / immunology*
  • Tics / blood*


  • Antigens, Bacterial