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Intrathecal synthesis of central nervous system (CNS)-reactive autoantibodies is observed across patients with autoimmune encephalitis (AE), who show multiple residual neurobehavioral deficits and relapses despite immunotherapies. We leveraged two common forms of AE, mediated by leucine-rich glioma inactivated-1 (LGI1) and contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CASPR2) antibodies, as human models to comprehensively reconstruct and profile cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) B cell receptor (BCR) characteristics. We hypothesized that the resultant observations would both inform the observed therapeutic gap and determine the contribution of intrathecal maturation to pathogenic B cell lineages. From the CSF of three patients, 381 cognate-paired IgG BCRs were isolated by cell sorting and scRNA-seq, and 166 expressed as monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Sixty-two percent of mAbs from singleton BCRs reacted with either LGI1 or CASPR2 and, strikingly, this rose to 100% of cells in clonal groups with ≥4 members. These autoantigen-reactivities were more concentrated within antibody-secreting cells (ASCs) versus B cells ( P < 0.0001), and both these cell types were more differentiated than LGI1- and CASPR2-unreactive counterparts. Despite greater differentiation, autoantigen-reactive cells had acquired few mutations intrathecally and showed minimal variation in autoantigen affinities within clonal expansions. Also, limited CSF T cell receptor clonality was observed. In contrast, a comparison of germline-encoded BCRs versus the founder intrathecal clone revealed marked gains in both affinity and mutational distances ( P = 0.004 and P < 0.0001, respectively). Taken together, in patients with LGI1 and CASPR2 antibody encephalitis, our results identify CSF as a compartment with a remarkably high frequency of clonally expanded autoantigen-reactive ASCs whose BCR maturity appears dominantly acquired outside the CNS.

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Journal article


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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