Encephalitis with Autoantibodies against the Glutamate Kainate Receptors GluK2

Ann Neurol. 2021 Jul;90(1):101-117. doi: 10.1002/ana.26098. Epub 2021 May 17.


Objective: The objective of this study was to report the identification of antibodies against the glutamate kainate receptor subunit 2 (GluK2-abs) in patients with autoimmune encephalitis, and describe the clinical-immunological features and antibody effects.

Methods: Two sera from 8 patients with similar rat brain immunostaining were used to precipitate the antigen from neuronal cultures. A cell-based assay (CBA) with GluK2-expressing HEK293 cells was used to assess 596 patients with different neurological disorders, and 23 healthy controls. GluK2-ab effects were determined by confocal microscopy in cultured neurons and electrophysiology in GluK2-expressing HEK293 cells.

Results: Patients' antibodies precipitated GluK2. GluK2 antibody-specificity was confirmed by CBA, immunoprecipitation, GluK2-immunoabsorption, and GluK2 knockout brain immunohistochemistry. In 2 of 8 samples, antibodies reacted with additional GluK2 epitopes present in GluK1 or GluK3; in both, the reactivity was abrogated after GluK2 immuno-absorption. Six of 8 patients developed acute encephalitis and clinical or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) features of predominant cerebellar involvement (4 presenting as cerebellitis, which in 2 patients caused obstructive hydrocephalus), and 2 patients had other syndromes (1 with cerebellar symptoms). One of the samples showed mild reactivity with non-kainate receptors (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptors [AMPAR] and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors [NMDAR]) leading to identify 6 additional cases with GluK2-abs among patients with anti-AMPAR (5/71) or anti-NMDAR encephalitis (1/73). GluK2-abs internalized GluK2 in HEK293 cells and neurons; these antibody-effects were reversible in neurons. A significant reduction of GluK2-mediated currents was observed in cells treated with patients' GluK2 serum following the time frame of antibody-mediated GluK2 internalization.

Interpretation: GluK2-abs associate with an encephalitis with prominent clinicoradiological cerebellar involvement. The antibody effects are predominantly mediated by internalization of GluK2. ANN NEUROL 2021;90:107-123.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Cerebellum / metabolism
  • Encephalitis / blood
  • Encephalitis / immunology*
  • Encephalitis / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid / immunology*
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid / metabolism


  • Autoantibodies
  • Gluk2 kainate receptor
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid