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OBJECTIVE: Patients with myasthenia gravis without acetylcholine receptor (AChR) or muscle-specific kinase (MuSK) antibodies detected by radioimmunoprecipitation assays (RIAs) are classified as seronegative myasthenia gravis (SNMG). Live cell-based assays (l-CBAs) can detect additional antibodies to clustered AChR, MuSK and low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 4 (LRP4), but positivity rates are variable and both clinical relevance and utility of CBA platforms remain unclear. METHODS: Sera from 82 patients with SNMG were tested by l-CBAs. Human embryonic kidney cells were transfected to individually express clustered AChR, MuSK or LRP4; or transfected to jointly express both clustered adult AChR and MuSK. Sera from 30 and 20 patients positive by RIA for AChR or MuSK antibodies were used as comparators. RESULTS: 53 of 82 (72%) patients with SNMG had generalised and 29 (28%) had ocular disease. The clustered AChR CBA detected antibodies in 16 of 82 patients (19.5%; including 4 patients with solely fetal AChR antibodies), while 7 of 82 (8.5%) patients had MuSK antibodies. A novel exploratory combined adult AChR-MuSK l-CBA efficiently detected all these antibodies in a subset of the SNMG cohort. No LRP4 antibodies were identified. Overall, patients with SNMG with clustered AChR antibodies, CBA-positive MuSK-MG or triple seronegative were younger, had less severe disease than patients with RIA-positive MG and had a better clinical outcome when immunotherapy was started soon after disease onset, although the time interval from onset to immunotherapy was not different when compared with patients with RIA-positive MG. CONCLUSION: Around one-third of patients with SNMG had AChR or MuSK antibodies by l-CBAs, which were efficiently detected with a combined l-CBA. The results in this large and unselected cohort of patients with MG demonstrate the diagnostic usefulness of performing CBAs and the importance of making these tests more widely available.

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Journal article


J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry

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