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Autoimmunity. 2015;48(5):328-35. doi: 10.3109/08916934.2015.1022163. Epub 2015 Mar 11.

Reactivation of persistent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes secretion of thyrotropin receptor antibodies (TRAbs) in EBV-infected B lymphocytes with TRAbs on their surface.

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Division of Molecular Pathology, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Tottori University , Yonago, Tottori , Japan .


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a ubiquitous virus that infects most adults latently. It persists in B lymphocytes and reactivates occasionally. Graves' disease is an autoimmune hyperthyroidism caused by thyrotropin receptor antibodies (TRAbs). We have reported that Graves' disease patients and healthy controls have EBV-infected lymphocytes that have TRAbs on their surface (TRAb(+)EBV(+) cells) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). EBV reactivation is known to be associated with plasma cell differentiation and antibody production of B cells. In this study, we investigated whether TRAb(+)EBV(+) cells really produce TRAbs or not when persistent EBV is reactivated. We cultured PBMCs from 12 Graves' disease patients and 12 healthy controls for several days with cyclosporine A to expand the EBV-infected cell population, and then compared TRAb levels between EBV reactivation by 33 °C culture and EBV nonreactivation by 37 °C culture of PBMCs. Flow cytometry confirmed that all samples at day 0 (reactivation starting point) contained TRAb(+)EBV(+) cells. During 33 °C culture, EBV-reactivated cells with EBV-gp350/220 expression increased from about 1 to 4%. We quantified TRAb levels in culture fluids by radio-receptor assay, and detected an increased concentration for at least one sampling point at 33 °C (from days 0 to 12) for all patients and healthy controls. TRAb levels were significantly higher in supernatants of 33 °C culture than of 37 °C culture, and also significantly higher in supernatants from patients than those from controls. This study revealed TRAb production from TRAb(+)EBV(+) cells in response to reactivation induction of persistent EBV in different efficiencies between patients and controls.


Autoantibody; Graves'; disease; latent virus; pathogenesis; plasma cell differentiation

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