Autoantibodies in melanoma-associated retinopathy target TRPM1 cation channels of retinal ON bipolar cells

J Neurosci. 2011 Mar 16;31(11):3962-7. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6007-10.2011.


Melanoma-associated retinopathy (MAR) is characterized by night blindness, photopsias, and a selective reduction of the electroretinogram b-wave. In certain cases, the serum contains autoantibodies that react with ON bipolar cells, but the target of these autoantibodies has not been identified. Here we show that the primary target of autoantibodies produced in MAR patients with reduced b-wave is the TRPM1 cation channel, the newly identified transduction channel in ON bipolar cells. Sera from two well characterized MAR patients, but not from a control subject, stained human embryonic kidney cells transfected with the TRPM1 gene, and Western blots probed with these MAR sera showed the expected band size (∼180 kDa). Staining of mouse and primate retina with MAR sera revealed immunoreactivity in all types of ON bipolar cells. Similar to staining for TRPM1, staining with the MAR sera was strong in dendritic tips and somas and was weak or absent in axon terminals. This staining colocalized with GFP in Grm6-GFP transgenic mice, where GFP is expressed in all and only ON bipolar cells, and also colocalized with Gα(o), a marker for all types of ON bipolar cells. The staining in ON bipolar cells was confirmed to be specific to TRPM1 because MAR serum did not stain these cells in a Trpm1(-/-) mouse. Evidence suggests that the recognized epitope is likely intracellular, and the sera can be internalized by retinal cells. We conclude that the vision of at least some patients with MAR is compromised due to autoantibody-mediated inactivation of the TRPM1 channel.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoantibodies / metabolism*
  • Blotting, Western
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / complications
  • Melanoma / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Retinal Bipolar Cells / metabolism*
  • Retinal Diseases / etiology
  • Retinal Diseases / immunology*
  • TRPM Cation Channels / genetics
  • TRPM Cation Channels / metabolism*
  • Transfection


  • Autoantibodies
  • TRPM Cation Channels