ZSCAN1 Autoantibodies Are Associated with Pediatric Paraneoplastic ROHHAD

Ann Neurol. 2022 Aug;92(2):279-291. doi: 10.1002/ana.26380. Epub 2022 May 25.


Objective: Rapid-onset Obesity with Hypothalamic Dysfunction, Hypoventilation and Autonomic Dysregulation (ROHHAD), is a severe pediatric disorder of uncertain etiology resulting in hypothalamic dysfunction and frequent sudden death. Frequent co-occurrence of neuroblastic tumors have fueled suspicion of an autoimmune paraneoplastic neurological syndrome (PNS); however, specific anti-neural autoantibodies, a hallmark of PNS, have not been identified. Our objective is to determine if an autoimmune paraneoplastic etiology underlies ROHHAD.

Methods: Immunoglobulin G (IgG) from pediatric ROHHAD patients (n = 9), non-inflammatory individuals (n = 100) and relevant pediatric controls (n = 25) was screened using a programmable phage display of the human peptidome (PhIP-Seq). Putative ROHHAD-specific autoantibodies were orthogonally validated using radioactive ligand binding and cell-based assays. Expression of autoantibody targets in ROHHAD tumor and healthy brain tissue was assessed with immunohistochemistry and mass spectrometry, respectively.

Results: Autoantibodies to ZSCAN1 were detected in ROHHAD patients by PhIP-Seq and orthogonally validated in 7/9 ROHHAD patients and 0/125 controls using radioactive ligand binding and cell-based assays. Expression of ZSCAN1 in ROHHAD tumor and healthy human brain tissue was confirmed.

Interpretation: Our results support the notion that tumor-associated ROHHAD syndrome is a pediatric PNS, potentially initiated by an immune response to peripheral neuroblastic tumor. ZSCAN1 autoantibodies may aid in earlier, accurate diagnosis of ROHHAD syndrome, thus providing a means toward early detection and treatment. This work warrants follow-up studies to test sensitivity and specificity of a novel diagnostic test. Last, given the absence of the ZSCAN1 gene in rodents, our study highlights the value of human-based approaches for detecting novel PNS subtypes. ANN NEUROL 2022;92:279-291.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases*
  • Child
  • Endocrine System Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamic Diseases* / genetics
  • Hypoventilation / genetics
  • Ligands
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes, Nervous System* / diagnosis
  • Syndrome


  • Autoantibodies
  • Ligands