Influenza viruses induce autoantibodies to a brain-specific 37-kDa protein in rabbit

P. Laing, J. G. Knight, J. M. Hill, A. G. Harris, J. S. Oxford, R. G. Webster, M. A.K. Markwell, S. M. Paul, C. B. Pert

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27 Scopus citations


Immunization of rabbits with certain H1N1 influenza viruses, including the neurotropic strains NWS/33 and WSN/33 and the New Jersey/76 strain, resulted in the production of autoantibodies to a brain-specific protein of 37 kDa that is present in various species, including humans. Autoantibodies were produced to brain only; various other tissues tested were negative. These antibodies were not elicited by other influenza A or B viruses, including closely related recombinant strains, but were elicited by the isolated hemagglutinin of A/Bellamy/42 strain and by formaldehyde-fixed WSN virus - demonstrating that infection was not essential for the induction of autoantibodies. In histological studies, reaction with anti-viral antisera was specific to gray matter and was confined to sera that recognized the 37-kDa protein. Antibody binding was prominent in regions comprised of neuronal cell bodies in cellular layers of the dentate gyrus, hippocampus, cerebral cortex, and cerebellum and was undetectable in myelin-rich regions, such as the corpus callosum. The 37-kDa protein, therefore, appears to be a neuronal antigen. Antibodies directed against this protein may be involved in the pathogenesis of one or more of the neuropsychiatric disorders that occur after infection with influenza.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1998-2002
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1989


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