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Clin Exp Immunol. 1986 May;64(2):249-54.

Thyrotrophin (TSH) binding sites on Yersinia enterocolitica recognized by immunoglobulins from humans with Graves' disease.


Antibodies against the gram negative enteric bacterium Yersinia enterocolitica have been found in a high proportion of persons with autoimmune thyroid disorders, especially in those with Graves' disease or hyperthyroidism (Shenkman & Bottone, 1981). There is strong evidence that Graves' disease is caused by receptor autoantibodies which mimic the bioeffects of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) on the thyroid (Manley, Knight & Adams, 1982). Recently, saturable binding sites for TSH were demonstrated in Y. enterocolitica under non-physiological conditions (Weiss et al., 1983). We have characterized TSH binding sites on Y. enterocolitica under physiological conditions and studied their interaction with Graves' immunoglobulins (Ig's). Saturable and specific binding of receptor-purified 125I-TSH to lysozyme/EDTA-treated Y. enterocolitica (serotype 03) was demonstrated under both non-physiological and physiological conditions. Scatchard binding plots were linear indicating a single class of binding site (Kd 1 X 10(-7) M, maximum of 30,000 binding sites per cell). In the presence of Graves' Ig's the binding of 125I-TSH to Y. enterocolitica was significantly inhibited. Graves' Ig's also precipitated a protein of relative molecular mass (Mr) 64,000 from Triton-solubilized, 125I-labelled Y. enterocolitica, similar in size to one of the proteins precipitated by Graves' Ig's from human thyroid membranes. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that thyroid autoimmunity may be triggered by bacterial infection via a mechanism involving crossreactivity at the level of the TSH receptor. They also suggest that elements of mammalian endocrine systems are highly conserved and have a function in prokaryotes.

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