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J Clin Invest. 1995 Jul;96(1):30-7.

Identification of thyroid stimulating hormone receptor-specific T cells in Graves' disease thyroid using autoantigen-transfected Epstein-Barr virus-transformed B cell lines.

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Mathilda and Terence Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom.


The importance of thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) agonist antibodies in the manifestations of Graves' disease (GD) is recognized. There are, however, no convincing reports of TSHR-specific T cells. We have previously cloned T cells specific for thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase (TPO) from GD lymphoid infiltrates and used autologous EBV-transformed B cell lines (EBVL) transfected with an expression vector encoding TPO to efficiently detect TPO-specific T cells. Here we used EBVL transfected with TSHR to seek TSHR-specific T cells in the GD infiltrates, after cloning the in vivo activated T cells without antigen. 3 out of 30 clones responded vigorously and reproducibly to EBVL-TSHR, with a mean stimulation index > 7. Their release of IL-2, IL-4, and IL-10 after stimulation with soluble anti-CD3 and phorbol ester was indistinguishable from the other clones from this thyroid. However, they produced relatively little IFN gamma (median IL-4/IFN gamma ratio of 0.80) compared with the other clones (median IL-4/IFN gamma ratio 0.06). Thus, this new potent method of antigen presentation, using autoantigen-transfected EBVL, has permitted the first unequivocal identification of TSHR T cells in GD thyroid, with distinct Th0/Th2 characteristics, unlike previously cloned TPO-responsive cells which have Th1 characteristics.

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