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Endocrinology. 2009 Jan;150(1):519-29. doi: 10.1210/en.2008-0878. Epub 2008 Aug 21.

Characterization of thyrotropin receptor antibody-induced signaling cascades.

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Thyroid Research Unit, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center, New York, New York 10468, USA.


The TSH receptor (TSHR) is constitutively active and is further enhanced by TSH ligand binding or by stimulating TSHR antibodies (TSHR-Abs) as seen in Graves' disease. TSH is known to activate the thyroid epithelial cell via both Galphas-cAMP/protein kinase A/ERK and Galphaq-Akt/protein kinase C coupled signaling networks. The recent development of monoclonal antibodies to the TSHR has enabled us to investigate the hypothesis that different TSHR-Abs may have unique signaling imprints that differ from TSH ligand itself. We have, therefore, performed sequential studies, using rat thyrocytes (FRTL-5, passages 5-20) as targets, to examine the signaling pathways activated by a series of monoclonal TSHR-Abs in comparison with TSH itself. Activation of key signaling molecules was estimated by specific immunoblots and/or enzyme immunoassays. Continuing constitutive TSHR activity in thyroid cells, deprived of TSH and serum for 48 h, was demonstrated by pathway-specific chemical inhibition. Under our experimental conditions, TSH ligand and TSHR-stimulating antibodies activated both Galphas and Galphaq effectors. Importantly, some TSHR-blocking and TSHR-neutral antibodies were also able to generate signals, influencing primarily the Galphaq effectors and induced cell proliferation. Most strikingly, antibodies that used the Galphaq cascades used c-Raf-ERK-p90RSK as a unique signaling cascade not activated by TSH. Our study demonstrated that individual TSHR-Abs had unique molecular signatures which resulted in sequential preferences. Because downstream thyroid cell signaling by the TSHR is both ligand dependent and independent, this may explain why TSHR-Abs are able to have variable influences on thyroid cell biology.

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