Autoimmune Epilepsy - Novel Multidisciplinary Analysis, Discoveries and Insights

Mia Levite*, Hadassa Goldberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epilepsy affects ~50 million people. In ~30% of patients the etiology is unknown, and ~30% are unresponsive to anti-epileptic drugs. Intractable epilepsy often leads to multiple seizures daily or weekly, lasting for years, and accompanied by cognitive, behavioral, and psychiatric problems. This multidisciplinary scientific (not clinical) ‘Perspective’ article discusses Autoimmune Epilepsy from immunological, neurological and basic-science angles. The article includes summaries and novel discoveries, ideas, insights and recommendations. We summarize the characteristic features of the respective antigens, and the pathological activity in vitro and in animal models of autoimmune antibodies to: Glutamate/AMPA-GluR3, Glutamate/NMDA-NR1, Glutamate/NMDA-NR2, GAD-65, GABA-R, GLY-R, VGKC, LGI1, CASPR2, and β2 GP1, found in subpopulations of epilepsy patients. Glutamate receptor antibodies: AMPA-GluR3B peptide antibodies, seem so far as the most exclusive and pathogenic autoimmune antibodies in Autoimmune Epilepsy. They kill neural cells by three mechanisms: excitotoxicity, Reactive-Oxygen-Species, and complement-fixation, and induce and/or facilitate brain damage, seizures, and behavioral impairments. In this article we raise and discuss many more topics and new insights related to Autoimmune Epilepsy. 1. Few autoimmune antibodies tilt the balance between excitatory Glutamate and inhibitory GABA, thereby promoting neuropathology and epilepsy; 2. Many autoantigens are synaptic, and have extracellular domains. These features increase the likelihood of autoimmunity against them, and the ease with which autoimmune antibodies can reach and harm these self-proteins. 3. Several autoantigens have ‘frenetic character’- undergoing dynamic changes that can increase their antigenicity; 4. The mRNAs of the autoantigens are widely expressed in multiple organs outside the brain. If translated by default to proteins, broad spectrum detrimental autoimmunity is expected; 5. The autoimmunity can precede seizures, cause them, and be detrimental whether primary or epiphenomenon; 6. Some autoimmune antibodies induce, and associate with, cognitive, behavioral and psychiatric impairments; 7. There are evidences for epitope spreading in Autoimmune Epilepsy; 8. T cells have different ‘faces’ in the brain, and in Autoimmune Epilepsy: Normal T cells are needed for the healthy brain. Normal T cells are damaged by autoimmune antibodies to Glutamate/AMPA GluR3, which they express, and maybe by additional autoantibodies to: Dopamine-R, GABA-R, Ach-R, Serotonin-R, and Adrenergic-R, present in various neurological diseases (summarized herein), since T cells express all these Neurotransmitter receptors. However, autoimmune and/or cytotoxic T cells damage the brain; 9. The HLA molecules are important for normal brain function. The HLA haplotype can confer susceptibility or protection from Autoimmune Epilepsy; 10. There are several therapeutic strategies for Autoimmune Epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number762743
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
StatePublished - 12 Jan 2022


  • GluR3B antibodies
  • HLA
  • T cells
  • autoimmune epilepsy
  • autoimmunity
  • epilepsy
  • glutamate receptor antibodies
  • neurological diseases


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