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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Feb;83(2):514-8.

A change from stimulatory to blocking antibody activity in Graves' disease during pregnancy.

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Department of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Republic of China.


Remission of Graves' disease (GD) during pregnancy with recrudescence after delivery is commonly observed. However, as pregnancy is associated with type 2 rather than type 1 cytokine production, a decrease in thyroid-stimulating antibody (TSAb) activity alone is unlikely to account for the remission during pregnancy. We hypothesized that a change in the antibody characteristics may occur as pregnancy advances. Fifteen women were studied in the first, second, and third trimesters of pregnancy and 4 months postpartum. TSH receptor antibodies were determined using human thyroid cell cultures, and lymphocyte subsets were measured by flow cytometry. Median TSAb (determined by cAMP release) decreased from 280% (96-3200) to 130% (range, 35-350; P < 0.05) during pregnancy, but no significant change was noted with the TSH binding inhibitory antibody (TBII; determined by RRA). Thyroid stimulation-blocking antibody (TSBAb; inhibition of TSH-stimulated cAMP release) increased from 16 +/- 9% to 43 +/- 16% (mean +/- SD; P < 0.005). The increase in TSBAb was observed even among those patients who were in clinical remission before pregnancy. Overall, a negative correlation was observed between TSBAb activities and free T4 levels during pregnancy (r = -0.279; P < 0.05). Reciprocal changes in TSAb, TBII, and TSBAb levels were observed in the seven patients who relapsed during the postpartum period. In comparison, the healthy pregnant women (n = 14) were all negative for TSAb, TBII, and TSBAb throughout pregnancy. The absolute number of T lymphocytes, T helper cells, and natural killer cells, but not B cells, decreased significantly during pregnancy in both healthy women and GD patients. GD patients had significantly more CD5+ B cells at all stages of pregnancy compared to controls. In conclusion, a change in specificity from stimulatory to blocking antibodies was observed in GD patients during pregnancy and may contribute to the remission of GD during pregnancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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