Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common human herpes virus latently infecting most of the world’s population with periodic reactivations, is the main environmental factor suspected to trigger and/or sustain autoimmunity by its ability to disrupt B-cell tolerance checkpoints. Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a prototypic autoimmune disorder, mostly caused by autoantibodies to acetylcholine receptor (AChR) of the neuromuscular junction, which cause muscle weakness and fatigability. Most patients display hyperplastic thymus, characterized by ectopic germinal center formation, chronic inflammation, exacerbated Toll-like receptor activation, and abnormal B-cell activation. After an overview on MG clinical features and intra-thymic pathogenesis, in the present chapter, we describe our main findings on EBV presence in MG thymuses, including hyperplastic and thymoma thymuses, in relationship with innate immunity activation and data from other autoimmune conditions. Our overall data strongly indicate a critical contribution of EBV to innate immune dysregulation and sustained B-cell-mediated autoimmune response in the pathological thymus of MG patients.
Part of the book: Epstein-Barr Virus