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The importance of thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) agonist antibodies in the manifestations of Graves' disease (GD) is recognized. There are, however, no convincing reports of TSHR-specific T cells. We have previously cloned T cells specific for thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase (TPO) from GD lymphoid infiltrates and used autologous EBV-transformed B cell lines (EBVL) transfected with an expression vector encoding TPO to efficiently detect TPO-specific T cells. Here we used EBVL transfected with TSHR to seek TSHR-specific T cells in the GD infiltrates, after cloning the in vivo activated T cells without antigen. 3 out of 30 clones responded vigorously and reproducibly to EBVL-TSHR, with a mean stimulation index > 7. Their release of IL-2, IL-4, and IL-10 after stimulation with soluble anti-CD3 and phorbol ester was indistinguishable from the other clones from this thyroid. However, they produced relatively little IFN gamma (median IL-4/IFN gamma ratio of 0.80) compared with the other clones (median IL-4/IFN gamma ratio 0.06). Thus, this new potent method of antigen presentation, using autoantigen-transfected EBVL, has permitted the first unequivocal identification of TSHR T cells in GD thyroid, with distinct Th0/Th2 characteristics, unlike previously cloned TPO-responsive cells which have Th1 characteristics.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Invest

Publication Date





30 - 37


Antigen Presentation, Autoantigens, B-Lymphocytes, Cell Line, Cell Line, Transformed, Cytokines, Graves Disease, Herpesvirus 4, Human, Humans, Receptors, Thyrotropin, T-Lymphocytes, Thyroid Gland, Transfection