BACKGROUND: Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is a disease of the CNS characterized by severe optic neuritis and longitudinally extended transverse myelitis. Recent studies suggest that anti-aquaporin-4 (AQP4) antibodies, NMO-specific biomarkers, are pathogenic and target AQP4-expressing astrocytes in NMO, although an additional event (T-cell response or infection) should occur for anti-AQP4 antibodies and complements to pass through the blood-brain barrier and cause the CNS lesions. AQP4 is the major water channel in the CNS, but it is also expressed in fast-twitch skeletal muscle fibers. However, muscle diseases have not been described in NMO. METHODS: We retrospectively examined the serologic database of 733 cases of NMO with anti-AQP4 antibody at the Department of Neurology, Tohoku University School of Medicine. The serum samples were sent to our laboratory for testing anti-AQP4 antibody from around the country during the period from 2006 to 2009. RESULTS: We found 3 anti-AQP4 antibody-positive female patients (7, 34, and 67 years old) with NMO who had episodes of prominent hyperCKemia (12,520, 19,415, and 59,660 IU/L) with general fatigue some weeks before the onset of optic neuritis. HyperCKemia was transient without any treatment in all patients, but recurred once in one of them. CONCLUSIONS: These cases suggest that hyperCKemia may be involved in the pathogenesis of neuromyelitis optica (NMO) in a fraction of patients. The causes of transient hyperCKemia are unknown. Further studies are needed to know the frequency of hyperCKemia in NMO and clarify its pathogenic role.
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