Glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) is an autoantigen in two autoimmune diseases, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) and stiff-man syndrome (SMS). However, most individuals with one of these diseases do not have the other disease. Prior studies have suggested that the natures of the GAD Abs associated with each of these diseases are different, which may have implications for the autoimmune pathogenesis. We have compared the GAD autoantibody profile and have mapped GAD protein epitope regions in the two diseases using an immunoprecipitation assay with recombinant GAD 65 and GAD 67 proteins, GAD protein fragments, and synthetic GAD peptides, as well as chimeric GAD proteins. Our results indicate that individuals with SMS have GAD Abs in 100- to 500-fold higher titer than individuals with IDDM. The population of GAD Abs in SMS sera is quite complex and includes those that recognize at least three GAD 65 epitope regions located between amino acids 1-16, 188-442, and 442-563. These types of GAD Abs are not found in IDDM sera. All SMS sera also had Ab specificity that binds GAD 67 in a region highly homologous to amino acids 188-442 of GAD 65. In contrast to prior studies that used immunoblotting to measure GAD Abs, we find GAD Abs in SMS sera also target two conformation-dependent regions of GAD 65, one located in the middle and one near the C-terminus of the protein. These two regions of the GAD 65 protein are similar to regions targeted by GAD 65-specific Abs found in individuals with IDDM. These results indicate that although disease-specific epitopes may exist, there is also overlap in the humoral response between the two diseases.

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