Electrolyte Imbalance in Anti-LGI1 Encephalitis: It Is Not All in Your Head

Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2023 Aug 17;10(6):e200155. doi: 10.1212/NXI.0000000000200155. Print 2023 Nov.


Background and objectives: Antileucine-rich glioma-inactivated 1 (anti-LGI1) autoimmune encephalitis was first described in 2010 and is today the most common type of limbic encephalitis. During the course of the disease, 60%-88% of the patients develop hyponatremia. The etiology of the sodium disorder is unclear, often presumed to be the result of the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH). Other electrolyte abnormalities have not been reported in association with anti-LGI1 antibody encephalitis. Due to the presence of hypomagnesemia and hypophosphatemia in our patients, we set out to try to find the expression of LGI1 protein in the kidney as an explanation for these abnormalities.

Methods: We reviewed the medical files of all patients diagnosed with anti-LGI1 antibody encephalitis, at the Department of Neurology in the Tel Aviv Medical Center between January 2011 and December 2020, exploring for electrolyte abnormalities. Using tissue staining, Western blot, mass spectrometry, and RNA expression techniques, we tried to demonstrate the expression of LGI1 protein in the human kidney.

Results: We identified 15 patients diagnosed with anti-LGI1 antibody encephalitis. Their average age was 65 years (44-80), and 9 were male individuals. Thirteen of the 15 patients (87%) developed varying degrees of hyponatremia. Laboratory studies demonstrated low serum osmolality, low serum blood urea nitrogen, and low uric acid, with a high urinary sodium and inappropriately high urine osmolality, supporting the presumable diagnosis of SIADH. One patient with hyponatremia that was tested, had high levels of copeptin, supporting the diagnosis of SIADH. In addition to hyponatremia, 7 patients (47%) exhibited other electrolyte abnormalities; 5 patients (33%) had overt hypophosphatemia, 4 patients (27%) had overt hypomagnesemia, and 2 other patients (13%) had borderline low magnesium levels. Western blot analysis of human kidney lysate, mass spectrometry, and qRT-PCR failed to demonstrate the expression of LGI1 protein in the kidney.

Discussion: Hyponatremia in patients with anti-LGI1 antibody encephalitis is due to SIADH as previously assumed. Other electrolyte abnormalities such as hypomagnesemia and hypophosphatemia occur in at least 40% of patients and may be another clue for the diagnosis of anti-LGI1 antibody encephalitis. Because we failed to demonstrate LGI1 expression in the kidney, the results of our study suggest that renal losses lead to these disturbances, most probably due to SIADH.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antibodies
  • Electrolytes
  • Encephalitis* / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyponatremia* / diagnosis
  • Hyponatremia* / etiology
  • Hypophosphatemia*
  • Inappropriate ADH Syndrome*
  • Male
  • Sodium


  • Antibodies
  • Electrolytes
  • Sodium