Anti-GM1 ganglioside autoantibodies are used as diagnostic markers for motor axonal peripheral neuropathies and are believed to be the primary mediators of such diseases. However, their ability to bind and exert pathogenic effects at neuronal membranes is highly inconsistent. Using human and mouse monoclonal anti-GM1 antibodies to probe the GM1-rich motor nerve terminal membrane in mice, we here show that the antigenic oligosaccharide of GM1 in the live plasma membrane is cryptic, hidden on surface domains that become buried for a proportion of anti-GM1 antibodies due to a masking effect of neighboring gangliosides. The cryptic GM1 binding domain was exposed by sialidase treatment that liberated sialic acid from masking gangliosides including GD1a or by disruption of the live membrane by freezing or fixation. This cryptic behavior was also recapitulated in solid-phase immunoassays. These data show that certain anti-GM1 antibodies exert potent complement activation-mediated neuropathogenic effects, including morphological damage at living terminal motor axons, leading to a block of synaptic transmission. This occurred only when GM1 was topologically available for antibody binding, but not when GM1 was cryptic. This revised understanding of the complexities in ganglioside membrane topology provides a mechanistic account for wide variations in the neuropathic potential of anti-GM1 antibodies.
Kay N. Greenshields, Susan K. Halstead, Femke M.P. Zitman, Simon Rinaldi, Kathryn M. Brennan, Colin O’Leary, Luke H. Chamberlain, Alistair Easton, Jennifer Roxburgh, John Pediani, Koichi Furukawa, Keiko Furukawa, Carl S. Goodyear, Jaap J. Plomp, Hugh J. Willison
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were accepted. No appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.