Oligoclonal Ig bands (OCBs) of the cerebrospinal fluid are a hallmark of multiple sclerosis (MS), a disabling inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS). OCBs are locally produced by clonally expanded antigen-experienced B cells and therefore are believed to hold an important clue to the pathogenesis. However, their target antigens have remained unknown, mainly because it was thus far not possible to isolate distinct OCBs against a background of polyclonal antibodies. To overcome this obstacle, we copurified disulfide-linked Ig heavy and light chains from distinct OCBs for concurrent analysis by mass spectrometry and aligned patient-specific peptides to corresponding transcriptome databases. This method revealed the full-length sequences of matching chains from distinct OCBs, allowing for antigen searches using recombinant OCB antibodies. As validation, we demonstrate that an OCB antibody from a patient with an infectious CNS disorder, neuroborreliosis, recognized a Borrelia protein. Next, we produced six recombinant antibodies from four MS patients and identified three different autoantigens. All of them are conformational epitopes of ubiquitous intracellular proteins not specific to brain tissue. Our findings indicate that the B-cell response in MS is heterogeneous and partly directed against intracellular autoantigens released during tissue destruction. In addition to helping elucidate the role of B cells in MS, our approach allows the identification of target antigens of OCB antibodies in other neuroinflammatory diseases and the production of therapeutic antibodies in infectious CNS diseases.
The inside of the cell is not normally seen by antibodies, but when a cell dies or is killed its content are liberated and then seen by the immune system and soin this study they take B cells from the CNS of some people with MS, they make the antibodies they produce and find that they are reacting to the contents of cells, suggesting that they are seconday to the disease process and not due to the cause. So not all of the antibodies in the spinal fluid may be informative.