Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an inflammatory demyelinating disease that selectively affects optic nerves and spinal cord. It is considered a severe variant of multiple sclerosis (MS), and frequently is misdiagnosed as MS, but prognosis and optimal treatments differ. A serum immunoglobulin G autoantibody (NMO-IgG) serves as a specific marker for NMO. Here we show that NMO-IgG binds selectively to the aquaporin-4 water channel, a component of the dystroglycan protein complex located in astrocytic foot processes at the blood-brain barrier. NMO may represent the first example of a novel class of autoimmune channelopathy.