Detection of anti-brain serum antibodies using a semi-quantitative immunohistological method

Sabrina Boscolo, Monica Passoni, Valentina Baldas, Iacopo Cancelli, Marios Hadjivassiliou, Alessandro Ventura, Enrico Tongiorgi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The number of autoimmune disorders that may involve the nervous system is increasing. The diagnosis of neurological involvement in the context of systemic diseases may be helped by the detection of autoantibodies reacting against neural autoantigens. If the autoantigen is not known but the target tissue is suspected, immunohistochemistry is one of the main techniques used to certify the presence of autoantibodies. Autoreactive antibodies are also present in the healthy population but in low quantity compared to patients with such diseases. Quantification of such autoantibodies could help to discriminate between disease and healthy states. We have developed a densitometric immunohistological method for the evaluation of human serum anti-neural reactivity. Using a densitometric analysis of rat brain sections incubated with the serum from 107 healthy subjects, we have defined the baseline of natural anti-neural autoreactivity, and the cut-off for subsequent quantification of anti-neural reactivity in patients with neurological involvement in the context of autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus, paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration, and stiff person syndrome. The test sensitivity was 81% with a positive predictive value of 52%, a specificity of 89% with a negative predictive value as high as 97%. In conclusion, this standardised semi-quantitative procedure makes immunohistochemistry a reliable diagnostic test for autoimmune neuropathologies and represents an excellent exclusion test for anti-neural autoimmunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-149
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Immunological Methods
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 20 2006


  • Central nervous system
  • Densitometry
  • Image analysis
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Natural autoimmunity
  • Neuroimmune pathologies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Immunology


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