OBJECTIVE: To assess the clinical relevance of the differential binding of antibodies against the 2 main aquaporin-4 (AQP4) isoforms in neuromyelitis optica (NMO) patient sera using stably transfected human embryonic kidney cells. METHODS: Flow cytometry of human embryonic kidney cells stably transfected with either M23 or M1 AQP4 was used to measure antibody endpoint titers in 52 remission samples and 26 relapse samples from 34 patients with clinically well-characterized AQP4 antibody-positive NMO/NMO spectrum disorder. RESULTS: The AQP4 M23 (40-61,440) and AQP4 M1 (<20-20,480) titers varied widely between patients, as did the M23:M1 antibody ratio (1-192). In 76 of 78 samples, binding to M23 was higher than binding to M1, including during relapses and remissions (p < 0.0001), and the M23:M1 ratio was relatively constant within an individual patient. Titers usually fell after immunosuppression, but the titers at which relapses occurred varied markedly; no threshold level for relapses could be identified, and relapses could occur without a rise in titers. Relapse severity did not correlate with M23 or M1 antibody titers, although there was a correlation between the earliest M23 titers and annualized relapse rates. The M23:M1 ratio and absolute M23 and M1 titers did not relate to age at disease onset, ethnicity, disease severity, phenotype, or relapses at different anatomical sites. CONCLUSION: Relative AQP4 antibody binding to M23 and M1 isoforms differs between patients but there is no consistent association between these differences and clinical characteristics of disease. Nevertheless, the M23 isoform provided a slightly more sensitive substrate for AQP4-antibody assays, particularly for follow-up studies.
Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm