Thymus histology and concomitant autoimmune diseases in Japanese patients with muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase-antibody-positive myasthenia gravis

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Abstract

Background and purpose

The differences in the characteristics of thymus histology, coexisting autoimmune diseases and related autoantibodies between anti-muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase (MuSK)-antibody (Ab)-positive myasthenia gravis (MG) patients, and anti-acetylcholine receptor (AChR)-Ab-positive MG patients are not clearly defined.

Methods

The types of thymus histology, coexisting autoimmune diseases and associated Abs in 83 MuSK-Ab-positive patients nationwide were investigated and were compared with those in AChR-Ab-positive patients followed at our institute (n = 83). As for the autoantibodies associated with thymoma, titin Abs were measured.

Results

Thymoma was not present in any of the MuSK-Ab-positive patients but presented in 21 patients (25.3%) amongst the AChR-Ab-positive patients. Titin Abs were absent in MuSK-Ab-positive patients but positive in 25 (30.1%) of the AChR-Ab-positive patients. Concomitant autoimmune diseases were present in eight MuSK-Ab-positive patients (9.6%) amongst whom Hashimoto′s thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis predominated, whereas 22 AChR-Ab-positive patients (26.5%) had one or more concomitant autoimmune diseases of which Graves′ disease predominated.

Conclusions

Differences in frequency of thymoma and thymic hyperplasia, coexisting autoimmune diseases and autoantibody positivity between MuSK-Ab-positive and AChR-Ab-positive MG were indicated, suggesting that, in contrast with AChR-Ab-positive MG, thymus does not seem to be involved in the pathogenic mechanisms of MuSK-Ab-positive MG.

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