Journal article

A review of the histopathological findings in myasthenia gravis: Clues to the pathogenesis of treatment-resistance in extraocular muscles

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Publication Details

Author list: Europa T, Nel M, Heckmann JM

Publisher: Elsevier: 12 months

Publication year: 2019

Journal: Neuromuscular Disorders

Volume number: 29

Start page: 381

End page: 387

Total number of pages: 7

ISSN: 0960-8966


In myasthenia gravis autoantibodies target components of the neuromuscular junction causing variable degrees of weakness. In most cases, autoantibodies trigger complement-mediated endplate damage and extraocular muscles may be most susceptible. A proportion of MG cases develop treatment-resistant ophthalmoplegia. We reviewed publications spanning 65 years reporting the histopathological findings in the muscles and extraocular muscles of myasthenic patients to determine whether pathological changes in extraocular muscles differ from non-ocular muscles. As extraocular muscles represent a unique muscle allotype we also compared their histopathology in myasthenia to those in strabismus. We found that in myasthenia gravis, the non-ocular muscles frequently demonstrate neurogenic changes regardless of myasthenic serotype. Mitochondrial stress/damage was also frequent in myasthenic muscles and possibly more evident in muscle-specific kinase antibody-positive MG. Although myasthenia-associated paralysed extraocular muscles demonstrated prominent fibro-fatty replacement and mitochondrial alterations, these features appeared commonly in paralysed extraocular muscles of any cause. We postulate that extraocular muscles may be more susceptible than limb muscles to poor contractility as a consequence of myasthenia, resulting in a cascade of atrophy signaling pathways and altered mitochondrial homeostasis which contribute to the tipping point in developing treatment-resistant myasthenic ophthalmoplegia. Early strategies to improve force generation in extraocular muscles, are critical.


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Last updated on 2019-18-11 at 10:22