Remodeling of the neuromuscular junction in myasthenia gravis increases serum neurofilament heavy chain levels

Sui H. Wong, Axel Petzold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction/Aims: In myasthenia gravis, prolonged muscle denervation causes muscle atrophy. We re-visited this observation using a biomarker hypothesis. We tested if serum neurofilament heavy chain levels, a biomarker for axonal degeneration, were elevated in myasthenia gravis. Methods: We enrolled 70 patients with isolated ocular myasthenia gravis and 74 controls recruited from patients in the emergency department. Demographic data were collected alongside serum samples. Serum samples were analyzed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the neurofilament heavy chain (NfH-SMI35). The statistical analyses included group comparisons, receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curves, area under the curve (AUC), sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values. Results: Serum neurofilament heavy chain levels were significantly (p < 0.0001) higher in individuals with myasthenia gravis (0.19 ng/mL) than in healthy control subjects (0.07 ng/mL). A ROC AUC optimized cutoff level of 0.06 ng/mL gave a diagnostic sensitivity of 82%, specificity of 76%, positive predictive value of 0.77 and a negative predictive value of 0.81. Discussion: The increase of serum neurofilament heavy chain levels in myasthenia gravis is consistent with observations of muscle denervation. We suggest that there is ongoing remodeling of the neuromuscular junction in myasthenia gravis. Longitudinal quantification of neurofilament isoform levels will be needed to investigate the prognostic value and potentially guide treatment decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-94
Number of pages4
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number1
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • biomarker
  • myasthenia gravis
  • neuro-muscular junction
  • neurofilament
  • ocular myasthenia gravis

Cite this