Glycolipid antigens and autoantibodies in autoimmune neuropathies

Trends Immunol. 2013 Sep;34(9):453-9. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2013 Jun 13.


Autoantibodies to glycans present on glycolipids mediate the postinfectious paralytic disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). These glycans are also found on lipo-oligosaccharides (LOSs) of GBS-inducing microbes, suggesting molecular mimicry as a mechanism for disease induction. How B lymphocyte tolerance to self-glycans is regulated during the initiation phase of the disease is currently under investigation. The discovery of antiglycolipid antibodies that bind to heteromeric glycolipid complexes has generated new insights in this field. Heteromeric complexes are structurally distinct glycolipids that interact to form new molecular shapes capable of either enhancing or attenuating recognition by autoantibodies. Although the principles emerging from this phenomenon have a substantial impact on diagnostics methods, they also raise intriguing questions about the diversity of innate antibody repertoires, mechanisms of tolerance, and autoantibody targeting of neural membranes.

Keywords: B cell tolerance; Guillain–Barré syndrome; autoantibodies; glycolipids; molecular mimicry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / immunology*
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Glycolipids / immunology*
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Mimicry


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens
  • Glycolipids