Clinical spectrum of high-titre GAD65 antibodies

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2021 Feb 9;92(6):645-654. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2020-325275. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To determine clinical manifestations, immunotherapy responsiveness and outcomes of glutamic acid decarboxylase-65 (GAD65) neurological autoimmunity.

Methods: We identified 323 Mayo Clinic patients with high-titre (>20 nmol/L in serum) GAD65 antibodies out of 380 514 submitted anti-GAD65 samples (2003-2018). Patients classified as having GAD65 neurological autoimmunity after chart review were analysed to determine disease manifestations, immunotherapy responsiveness and predictors of poor outcome (modified Rankin score >2).

Results: On review, 108 patients were classified as not having GAD65 neurological autoimmunity and 3 patients had no more likely alternative diagnoses but atypical presentations (hyperkinetic movement disorders). Of remaining 212 patients with GAD65 neurological autoimmunity, median age at symptom onset was 46 years (range: 5-83 years); 163/212 (77%) were female. Stiff-person spectrum disorders (SPSD) (N=71), cerebellar ataxia (N=55), epilepsy (N=35) and limbic encephalitis (N=7) could occur either in isolation or as part of an overlap syndrome (N=44), and were designated core manifestations. Cognitive impairment (N=38), myelopathy (N=23) and brainstem dysfunction (N=22) were only reported as co-occurring phenomena, and were designated secondary manifestations. Sustained response to immunotherapy ranged from 5/20 (25%) in epilepsy to 32/44 (73%) in SPSD (p=0.002). Complete immunotherapy response occurred in 2/142 (1%). Cerebellar ataxia and serum GAD65 antibody titre >500 nmol/L predicted poor outcome.

Interpretation: High-titre GAD65 antibodies were suggestive of, but not pathognomonic for GAD65 neurological autoimmunity, which has discrete core and secondary manifestations. SPSD was most likely to respond to immunotherapy, while epilepsy was least immunotherapy responsive. Complete immunotherapy response was rare. Serum GAD65 antibody titre >500 nmol/L and cerebellar ataxia predicted poor outcome.