Anti-GQ1b ganglioside antibodies are the serological hallmark of the Miller Fisher syndrome (MFS) variant of the paralytic neuropathy, Guillain- Barré syndrome, and are believed to be the principal pathogenic mediators of the disease. In support of this, we previously showed in an in vitro mouse model of MFS that anti-GQ1b antibodies were able to bind and disrupt presynaptic motor nerve terminals at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) as one of their target sites, thereby causing muscle paralysis. This injury only occurred through activation of complement, culminating in the formation and deposition of membrane attack complex (MAC, C5b-9) in nerve membranes. Since this step is crucial to the neuropathic process and an important convergence point for antibody and complement mediated membrane injury in general, it forms an attractive pharmacotherapeutic target. Here, we assessed the efficacy of the humanized monoclonal antibody eculizumab, which blocks the formation of human C5a and C5b-9, in preventing the immune-mediated motor neuropathy exemplified in this model. Eculizumab completely prevented electrophysiological and structural lesions at anti-GQ1b antibody pre-incubated NMJs in vitro when using normal human serum (NHS) as a complement source. In a novel in vivo mouse model of MFS generated through intraperitoneal injection of anti-GQ1b antibody and NHS, mice developed respiratory paralysis due to transmission block at diaphragm NMJs, resulting from anti-GQ1b antibody binding and complement activation. Intravenous injection of eculizumab effectively prevented respiratory paralysis and associated functional and morphological hallmarks of terminal motor neuropathy. We show that eculizumab protects against complement-mediated damage in murine MFS, providing the rationale for undertaking clinical trials in this disease and other antibody-mediated neuropathies in which complement activation is believed to be involved.

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Brain: a journal of neurology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Halstead, S.K, Zitman, F.M.P, Humphreys, P.D, Greenshields, K, Verschuuren, J.J, Jacobs, B.C, … Willison, H.J. (2008). Eculizumab prevents anti-ganglioside antibody-mediated neuropathy in a murine model. Brain: a journal of neurology, 131(5), 1197–1208. doi:10.1093/brain/awm316