The diagnostic utility of folate receptor autoantibodies in blood

Clin Chem Lab Med. 2013 Mar 1;51(3):545-54. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2012-0577.


Folate supplementation reduces the risk of neural tube defect (NTD) pregnancy, and folinic acid has been used to correct cerebral folate deficiency (CFD) in children with developmental disorders. In the absence of systemic folate deficiency, the discovery of autoantibodies (AuAbs) to folate receptor α (FRα) that block the uptake of folate offers one mechanism to explain the response to folate in these disorders. The association of FRα AuAbs with pregnancy-related complications, CFD syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders and response to folate therapy is highly suggestive of the involvement of these AuAbs in the disruption of brain development and function via folate pathways. The two types of antibodies identified in the serum of patients are blocking antibody and binding antibody. The two antibodies can be measured by the specific assays described and exert their pathological effects either by functional blocking of folate transport as previously shown or hypothetically by disrupting the FR by an antigen-antibody-mediated inflammatory response. We have identified both IgG and IgM AuAbs in these conditions. The predominant antibodies in women with NTD pregnancy belong to the IgG1 and IgG2 isotype and in CFD children, the IgG1 and IgG4 isotype. This review describes the methods used to measure these AuAbs, their binding characteristics, affinity, cross-reactivity, and potential mechanisms by which folate therapy could work. Because these AuAbs are associated with various pathologies during fetal and neonatal development, early detection and intervention could prevent or reverse the consequences of exposure to these AuAbs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Blocking / blood
  • Antibodies, Blocking / drug effects
  • Antibody Affinity / drug effects
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / blood
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / diagnosis*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / immunology
  • Female
  • Folate Receptor 1 / immunology*
  • Folic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Folic Acid / pharmacology
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / blood
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / diagnosis*
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin Isotypes / blood
  • Neural Tube Defects / blood
  • Neural Tube Defects / diagnosis*
  • Neural Tube Defects / immunology
  • Pregnancy


  • Antibodies, Blocking
  • Autoantibodies
  • Folate Receptor 1
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin Isotypes
  • Folic Acid