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Autoantibodies to Shaker-type (Kv1) K+ channels are now known to be associated with three syndromes. Peripheral nerve hyperexcitability is the chief manifestation of acquired neuromyotonia; the combination of neuromyotonia with autonomic and CNS involvement is called Morvan's syndrome (MoS); and CNS manifestations without peripheral involvement is called limbic encephalitis (LE). To determine the cellular basis of these clinical manifestations, we immunostained mouse neural tissues with sera from patients with neuromyotonia (n = 10), MoS (n = 2) or LE (n = 5), comparing with specific antibodies to relevant K+ channel subunits. Fourteen of 17 patients' sera were positive for Kv1.1, Kv1.2 or Kv1.6 antibodies by immunoprecipitation of 125I-alpha-dendrotoxin-labelled rabbit brain K+ channels. Most sera (11 out of 17) labelled juxtaparanodes of peripheral myelinated axons, co-localizing with Kv1.1 and Kv1.2. In the CNS, all sera tested (n = 12) co-localized with one or more areas of high Kv1.1, Kv1.2 or Kv1.6 channel expression: 10 out of 12 sera co-localized with Kv1.1 and Kv1.2 at spinal cord juxtaparanodes or cerebellar layers, while 3 out of 12 sera co-localized additionally (n = 2) or exclusively (n = 1) with Kv1.6 subunits in Purkinje cells, motor and hippocampal neurons. However, only sera from LE patients labelled the hippocampal areas that are enriched in excitatory, Kv1.1-positive axon terminals. All sera (17 out of 17) labelled one or more of these Kv1 subunits when expressed at the cell membrane of transfected HeLa cells, but not when they were retained in the endoplasmic reticulum. Again, LE sera labelled Kv1.1 subunits more prominently than did MoS or neuromyotonia sera, suggesting an association between higher Kv1.1 specificity and limbic manifestations. In contrast, neuromyotonia sera bound more strongly to Kv1.2 subunits than to Kv1.1 or Kv1.6. These studies support the hypothesis that antibodies to mature surface membrane-expressed Shaker-type K+ channels cause acquired neuromyotonia, MoS and LE, and suggest that future assays based on immunofluorescence of cells expressing individual Kv1 subunits will prove more sensitive than the immunoprecipitation assay. Although more than one type of antibody is often detectable in individual sera, higher affinity for certain subunits or subunit combinations may determine the range of clinical manifestations.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1570 - 1584


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Animals, Antibody Specificity, Autoantibodies, Autoimmune Diseases, Biomarkers, Brain, Female, HeLa Cells, Hippocampus, Humans, Isaacs Syndrome, Kv1.1 Potassium Channel, Kv1.2 Potassium Channel, Limbic Encephalitis, Male, Mice, Middle Aged, Peripheral Nerves, Presynaptic Terminals, Shaker Superfamily of Potassium Channels, Spinal Cord, Syringomyelia, Transfection