Monoclonal Gammopathy

Unusual Manifestations of Essential Monoclonal Gammopathy. II. Simulation of the Insulin Autoimmune Syndrome

Marshall A. Lichtman and Sophia R. Balderman


In rare cases, the monoclonal immunoglobulin that characterizes essential monoclonal gammopathy interacts with a self-antigen with functional consequences and a resulting clinical syndrome. This event is presumably random and results from the clone of B lymphocytes making a monoclonal immunoglobulin that simulates an autoimmune antibody. Thus, by chance, the monoclonal immunoglobulin has sufficient affinity for an epitope on a normal protein that functional consequences ensue. One such rare event is the synthesis and secretion of a monoclonal immunoglobulin that binds to human insulin. Inactivation of insulin by antibody results in (1) an early postprandial hyperglycemia, (2) followed by either or both (i) a reactive overshot in insulin secretion, as a result of hypertrophied or hyperplastic islet beta cells, later falling glucose levels, and (ii) an unpredictable dissociation of insulin from the complex, and, several hours later, (3) a resultant increase in free insulin levels and severe hypoglycemia with clinical consequences, ranging from sweating, dizziness, headache, and tremors to confusion, seizures, and unconsciousness. These attacks are invariably responsive to glucose administration. This very uncommon manifestation of a monoclonal gammopathy can occur in patients with essential monoclonal gammopathy or myeloma. The monoclonal anti-insulin immunoglobulin in monoclonal gammopathy has a low affinity for insulin, but has a high capacity for insulin-binding, resulting in the syndrome of episodic hypoglycemic attacks. This phenomenon of an insulin-binding monoclonal immunoglobulin simulates the acquired insulin autoimmune syndrome, although the latter is mediated by a polyclonal antibody response in the majority of cases studied, and has linkage to HLA class II alleles.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2015;6(3):e0027