The role of protein aggregation in the pathogenesis of inclusion body myositis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Inclusion body myositis (IBM) is characterised by infiltration of CD8+ T-cells and signs of protein aggregation such as rimmed vacuoles and inclusion bodies. Aggregated proteins include those present in neurodegenerative diseases, and also those involved in protein homeostasis. The aim of this review is to discuss the pathological effects of protein aggregates and the process of aggregation following immune attack in IBM. Immune attack is likely to cause protein aggregation by impairing endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and mitochondrial function. Apoptotic and necrotic pathways are activated, possibly leading to nucleo-cytoplasmic coagulation. Overexpression of nuclear and ribosomal proteins in rimmed vacuoles suggests that the vacuoles develop from the collapse of myonuclei and the surrounding ER. Aggregated proteins can activate the NLR family pyrin domain containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome or provoke a humoral immune response. Heat shock proteins, ribosomal proteins and protein fragments may provoke interferon-gamma and cytotoxic T-cell responses in a similar manner to Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens. Persistent provocation can lead to T-cell large granular lymphocytic leukaemia which is resistant to immunosuppression, and would explain the progression from polymyositis to IBM. Protein aggregates may impair the cellular machinery, and proteins may propagate along a myocyte in a prion-like manner. These pathological mechanisms may prevent myocyte regeneration following damage from eccentric muscle contraction, causing weakness and atrophy in a characteristic pattern. Further understanding of the mechanisms of protein aggregation in IBM may lead to additional therapies as well as novel muscle and blood biomarkers. Earlier diagnosis and treatment may result in improved outcomes when effective therapies are available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-424
Number of pages11
JournalClinical and Experimental Rheumatology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Biomarkers/metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Humans
  • Myositis/pathology
  • Myositis, Inclusion Body
  • Protein Aggregates


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