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Endocr Rev. 1988 Feb;9(1):106-21.

Autoantibodies to the thyrotropin receptor.

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Endocrine Immunology Unit, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, United Kingdom.


This review considers recent developments in our understanding of the properties of TRAb, particularly measurement of the antibodies and their sites of action and synthesis. Two new assay methods have allowed considerable improvements in the sensitivity, specificity, precision, and ease of measuring TRAb. In particular: 1) receptor assays based on inhibition of receptor-purified labeled TSH binding to detergent-solubilized TSH receptors and 2) bioassays based on stimulation of cAMP release from monolayer cultures of isolated thyroid cells. Detailed studies with the two assays indicate that TSH receptor antibodies nearly always act as TSH agonists in patients with a history of Graves' hyperthyroidism. Studies in areas of dietary iodine sufficiency suggest that measurement of the antibodies at various stages in the course of treating Graves' disease can be of value in predicting the outcome of therapy. However, in areas of iodine deficiency, difficulties in the ability of patients' thyroid tissue to recover from the effects of antithyroid drugs may prevent the receptor antibodies from causing a relapse of thyrotoxicosis. Consequently, the predictive value of receptor antibody measurements would be expected to be lower in these geographical areas. Although patients with a history of Graves' hyperthyroidism nearly always have TRAb which act as TSH agonists, about 20% of patients with frank hypothyroidism due to autoimmune destruction of the thyroid have TRAb which act as TSH antagonists (blocking antibodies). There is some evidence that these blocking antibodies can cause hypothyroidism particularly in the neonate. With regard to the site of synthesis of TRAb, there is now direct evidence that they are synthesized by thyroid lymphocytes, particularly the lymphocytes in close proximity to thyroid follicular cells. This is consistent with the well established effects of antithyroid treatment (drugs, radioiodine, or surgery) on TRAb levels in addition to their effects on thyroid hormone synthesis. Recent studies using affinity labeling with 125I-labeled TSH have enabled elucidation of the structure of the TSH receptor. TSH receptors in human, porcine, and guinea pig thyroid tissue have a two-chain structure in which the TSH binding site is formed on the outside surface of the cell membrane by a water-soluble A subunit (Mr approximately 50 K). The A subunit is linked by a disulfide bridge and weak noncovalent bonds to the amphiphilic B subunit (Mr approximately 30 K). This subunit, which penetrates the lipid bilayer, probably forms the site for interaction of the receptor with the regulatory subunits of adenylate cyclase.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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