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Eur J Endocrinol. 2004 Feb;150(2):225-34.

The role of CXCR5 and its ligand CXCL13 in the compartmentalization of lymphocytes in thyroids affected by autoimmune thyroid diseases.

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Institute of Anatomy, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.



Graves' disease (GD) and Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT) are characterized by lymphocytic infiltrates partly resembling secondary lymphoid follicles in the thyroid. CXCR5 and its ligand CXCL13 regulate compartmentalization of B- and T-cells in secondary lymphoid organs. The aim of the study was to elucidate the role of this chemokine receptor-ligand pair in thyroid autoimmunity.


Peripheral blood and thyroid-derived lymphocyte subpopulations were examined by flow cytometry for CXCR5. CXCR5 and CXCL13 cDNA were quantified in thyroid tissues by real-time RT-PCR.


We found no differences between the percentages of peripheral blood CXCR5+ T- and B-cells in GD patients (n=10) and healthy controls (n=10). In GD patients, the number of memory CD4+ cells expressing CXCR5 which are functionally characterized as follicular B helper T-cells is higher in thyroid-derived (18+/-3%) compared with peripheral blood T-lymphocytes (8+/-2%). The highest CXCL13 mRNA levels were found in HT (n=2, 86.1+/-1.2 zmol (10(-21) mol) cDNA/PCR) followed by GD tissues (n=16, 9.6+/-3.5). Only low amounts were determined in thyroid autonomy (TA) (n=11) thyroid tissues, irrespective of whether the autonomous nodule (0.5+/-0.1) or the surrounding normal tissue (1.8+/-0.7) had been analyzed. The same differences were found for CXCR5 (HT: 179.1+/-6.8; GD: 17.4+/-10.6; TA(nodule): 0.8+/-0.5; TA(normal): 4.4+/-3.6). In GD, there is a correlation between CXCL13 and CXCR5 mRNA levels and the number of focal lymphocytic infiltrates and germinal centers as well as anti-thyroperoxidase but not anti-TSH receptor autoantibodies.


CXCR5 and CXCL13 play an essential role in maintaining B- and T-cells in lymphocytic infiltrates and ectopic follicles in thyroid tissue from patients affected by autoimmunity.

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