Review: Recent advances in the understanding of the pathophysiology of neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder

Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2020 Apr;46(3):199-218. doi: 10.1111/nan.12574. Epub 2019 Aug 14.


Neuromyelitis optica is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder of the central nervous system that preferentially targets the spinal cord and optic nerve. Following the discovery of circulating antibodies against the astrocytic aquaporin 4 (AQP4) water channel protein, recent studies have expanded our knowledge of the unique complexities of the pathogenesis of neuromyelitis optica and its relationship with the immune response. This review describes and summarizes the recent advances in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying neuromyelitis optica disease pathology and examines their potential as therapeutic targets. Additionally, we update the most recent research by proposing major unanswered questions regarding how peripheral AQP4 antibodies are produced and their entry into the central nervous system, the causes of AQP4-IgG-seronegative disease, why peripheral AQP4-expressing organs are spared from damage, and the impact of this disease on pregnancy.

Keywords: aquaporin 4; astrocyte; autoimmune; myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein; neuromyelitis optica; neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / immunology*
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / pathology*
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / physiopathology*