Myelin glycosphingolipid immunoreactivity and CSF levels in multiple sclerosis

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Patients with multiple sclerosis were reported to harbour antibodies not only against proteins and glycoproteins but also against glycolipids, including sulfatide and galactosylceramide (GalCer), the two major glycosphingolipids of myelin. However, previous results were inconsistent concerning glycosphingolipid levels, antibody type, dominance of serum or Cerebrospinal fluid compartments and relationship to the multiple sclerosis (MS) course.


We hereby report that the cerebrospinal fluid levels of sulfatide were increased in patients with MS (n = 46) compared with controls (n = 50, P < 0.001). In addition, patients had higher serum IgM anti-glycosphingolipid titres than controls (P = 0.03 for sulfatide, <0.001 for GalCer), while the anti-glycosphingolipid IgM antibodies in the cerebrospinal fluid were essentially normal. However, in seven of 46 patients cerebrospinal fluid IgG antibodies against GalCer (P = 0.004) could be detected, which was not found in any of the control individuals, and this finding might mirror the occurrence of more specific B-cell clones behind the blood–brain barrier.


The IgM immunoreactivity in serum did not show any relationship to the type of course or severity of MS, arguing against a phenomenon secondary to myelin damage. Thus, the IgM antibody findings are compatible with an early antigen challenge or autoimmunity associated with natural antibodies.

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