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BACKGROUND: Antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD-Ab) are described in patients with insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes mellitus (IDDM), in stiff-man syndrome, and, recently, in a few patients with cerebellar ataxia. OBJECTIVES: To show a link between GAD-Ab and some patients with cerebellar ataxia and to clarify their clinical and immunologic profiles. METHODS: Serum samples were selected from 9000 samples of 4 laboratories. The selection criterion was an immunohistochemical pattern compatible with GAD-Ab that was confirmed by radioimmunoassay. We identified 22 patients with stiff-man syndrome and 14 with cerebellar ataxia and GAD-Ab. RESULTS: Thirteen of the 14 patients with cerebellar ataxia and GAD-Ab were women, and 11 had late-onset IDDM. Patients did not have clinical or radiologic evidence of brainstem involvement. Ten patients had oligoclonal IgG bands in the cerebrospinal fluid, and intrathecal GAD-Ab synthesis was observed in 5 of the 6 patients studied. The level of GAD-Ab of these patients was similar to those with stiff-man syndrome and significantly higher than those with IDDM or with polyendocrine autoimmunity (P<.001). However, the GAD-Ab levels of 6 of the 9 patients with polyendocrine autoimmunity overlapped with those of patients with cerebellar ataxia. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest a link between high level of GAD-Ab and some cases of cerebellar ataxia, particularly women with IDDM. If high serum levels of GAD-Ab are detected, the cerebrospinal fluid should be evaluated for the presence of oligoclonal IgG bands and intrathecal synthesis of GAD-Ab to further prove an autoimmune origin of the syndrome.


Journal article


Arch Neurol

Publication Date





225 - 230


Adult, Age of Onset, Aged, Antibodies, Anti-Idiotypic, Atrophy, Cerebellar Ataxia, Cerebellum, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1, Female, Glutamate Decarboxylase, Humans, Immunoglobulins, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Middle Aged, Oligoclonal Bands, Stiff-Person Syndrome