Nuclear actin aggregation is a hallmark of anti-synthetase syndrome-induced dysimmune myopathy

Neurology. 2015 Mar 31;84(13):1346-54. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000001422. Epub 2015 Mar 6.


Objective: To analyze antisynthetase syndrome-associated myositis by modern myopathologic methods and to define its place in the spectrum of idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIMs).

Methods: Skeletal muscle biopsies from antisynthetase syndrome-associated myositis and other IIMs from different institutions worldwide were analyzed by histopathology, quantitative PCR, and electron microscopy.

Results: Myonuclear actin filament inclusions were identified as a unique morphologic hallmark of antisynthetase syndrome-associated myositis. Nuclear actin inclusions were never found in dermatomyositis, polymyositis, sporadic inclusion body myositis, autoimmune necrotizing myopathy associated with signal recognition particle or 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase autoantibodies, or nonspecific myositis associated with other systemic diseases, harboring myositis-associated autoantibodies, and presenting myofiber necrosis. We show that molecules involved in actin filament formation and actin shuttling mechanisms are altered in antisynthetase syndrome, and may thus be involved in pathologic myonuclear actin aggregation. In addition, we have identified a typical topographic distribution of necrotic myofibers predominantly located at the periphery of muscle fascicles accompanied by inflammation and destruction of the perimysial connective tissue.

Conclusion: Antisynthetase syndrome-associated myositis is characterized by distinctive myonuclear actin filament inclusions, including rod formations and a typical necrotizing perimysial myositis. This supports the hypothesis that antisynthetase syndrome-associated myositis is unique and should not be grouped among dermatomyositis, polymyositis, sporadic inclusion body myositis, necrotizing autoimmune myositis, or nonspecific myositis.

Classification of evidence: This study provides Class II evidence that for patients with IIMs, the presence of myonuclear actin filament inclusions accurately identifies patients with antisynthetase syndrome-associated myositis (sensitivity 81%, specificity 100%).

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / pathology
  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Biopsy
  • Humans
  • Intranuclear Inclusion Bodies / pathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / ultrastructure
  • Myositis / complications
  • Myositis / diagnosis
  • Myositis / pathology*
  • Necrosis / pathology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Actins

Supplementary concepts

  • Antisynthetase syndrome