GABAA receptor autoimmunity: A multicenter experience

Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2019 Apr 4;6(3):e552. doi: 10.1212/NXI.0000000000000552. eCollection 2019 May.


Objective: We sought to validate methods for detection and confirmation of GABAA receptor (R)-IgG and clinically characterize seropositive cases.

Methods: Archived serum and CSF specimens (185 total) suspected to harbor GABAAR-IgG were evaluated by indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA). Twenty-six specimens from 19 patients appeared suspicious for GABAAR-IgG positivity by IFA, based on prior reports and comparison with commercial GABAAR antibody staining. Aliquots of those specimens were tested at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and Euroimmun, Lubeck, Germany, for GABAAR-IgG by cell-based assays (CBAs) using HEK293-indicator cells transfected with plasmids encoding different GABAAR subunits.

Results: Eight specimens (of 26 tested; 4 serums, 4 CSFs) from 5 patients were confirmed by CBA to be GABAAR-IgG positive. Patient IgGs were always reactive with α1β3 GABAAR subunits. One more patient was identified clinically after this validation study. Median age for the 6 patients at serologic diagnosis was 44 years (range, 1-71 years), and 4 of them were male. Among the 4 for whom clinical information was available (2 treated by the authors), all had encephalitis and antiepileptic drug refractory seizures. Three out of 4 patients treated with a combination of immunotherapies had good outcomes. The fourth, recognized to have an autoimmune cause late in the clinical course, had severe permanent neurologic sequelae and brain atrophy.

Conclusions: Though not as common as NMDA-R encephalitis, GABAAR encephalitis generally has a characteristic clinical-radiologic presentation and is treatable, making accurate laboratory diagnosis critical.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System / blood
  • Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System / diagnosis*
  • Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System / immunology*
  • Encephalitis / blood
  • Encephalitis / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Encephalitis / diagnosis*
  • Encephalitis / immunology*
  • Female
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, GABA-A / immunology*


  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptors, GABA-A