Hyperthyroidism in Graves' disease (GD) is mediated by antibodies to the thyrotropin receptor (TSHr). Patients that go into remission show a decline in antibody titer. However, upon cessation of treatment with anti-thyroid drugs a significant proportion of patients relapse and TSHr antibodies (TSHrAb) are present in their circulation. This suggests that B cells capable of producing TSHrAb persist despite treatment. To determine the frequency of these cells, B cells from six patients with GD and four healthy controls were infected with Epstein-Barr virus and cultured in 96-well plates at varying cell concentrations. A higher frequency of B cells capable of producing TSHrAbs was detected in patients with GD, relative to normal controls. For example, at 2 × 105 cells per well, 100% of wells containing cells from either patients with GD or controls were positive for immunoglobulin (Ig) production. In contrast, 27% of the wells containing cells from Graves' patients, and only 3% from controls, were positive for TSHrAb. Higher titers of TSHrAbs were produced in cultures containing lymphocytes from patients with GD and were predominantly of IgG isotype. All patients with GD who had high thyrotropin binding inhibitory immunoglobulins also had higher frequencies of TSHr-specific B cells. These findings show that TSHrAb-producing B cells are present at a higher frequency in the peripheral circulation of patients with GD.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine