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Thyroid. 2001 Oct;11(10):929-34.

Interleukin-6 stimulates thyrotropin receptor expression in human orbital preadipocyte fibroblasts from patients with Graves' ophthalmopathy.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition, Mayo Clinic/Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.


The thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) is the thyroid autoantigen against which stimulating autoantibodies are directed in Graves' hyperthyroidism. Recent evidence suggests that TSHR may also serve as an orbital autoantigen in Graves' ophthalmopathy (GO) and that expression of this protein is increased in the fatty connective tissues of the orbit in this condition. It has been shown that orbital fibroblasts from patients with GO increase thyrotropin (TSH)-dependent cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) production and TSHR gene expression when cultured under conditions known to stimulate adipocyte differentiation. In the current study, we wanted to determine whether treatment of these cells with particular cytokines (each 1 ng/mL) during differentiation might further augment TSHR expression. We found that exposure to interleukin (IL)-6 increased TSHR expression above control levels in cells from patients with GO. In contrast, this cytokine did not affect TSHR expression in normal orbital cells. Neither IL-4 nor IL-1alpha had a significant stimulatory effect in either normal or Graves' cultures. These findings suggest that IL-6 may play a role in the pathogenesis of GO by increasing expression of the putative autoantigen within the adipose/connective tissues of the orbit.

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