Early suggestions that a humoral factor might be implicated in the disorder of neuromuscular transmission in myasthenia gravis have been confirmed by the detection of anti-AChR antibody in 85-90% of the patients with generalised disease and in 75% of cases with restricted ocular myasthenia. Plasma exchange reveals that serum anti-AChR usually has an inverse relationship to muscle strength and present evidence indicates that patients responding to thymectomy and immunosuppressive durg treatment usually show a consistent decline in serum anti-AChR titres. The antibody is heterogeneous and can lead to a loss of muscle AChR by several mechanisms. Anti-AChR is produced in the thymus in relatively small amounts. Anti-AChR antibody synthesis by thymic lymphocytes and pokeweed stimulated peripheral lymphocytes in culture provides a means of studying the effect of different lymphocyte populations in vitro. Analysis of clinical, immunological and HLA antigen characteristics in MG suggest that more than one mechanism may underlie the breakdown in tolerance to AChR, leading to the production of anti-AChR antibodies.
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