Role of the transgenic human thyrotropin receptor A-subunit in thyroiditis induced by A-subunit immunization and regulatory T cell depletion

Y. Mizutori, Y. Nagayama, D. Flower, A. Misharin, H.A. Aliesky, B. Rapoport, S.M. McLachlan

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Transgenic BALB/c mice that express intrathyroidal human thyroid stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR) A-subunit, unlike wild-type (WT) littermates, develop thyroid lymphocytic infiltration and spreading to other thyroid autoantigens after T regulatory cell (Treg) depletion and immunization with human thyrotropin receptor (hTSHR) adenovirus. To determine if this process involves intramolecular epitope spreading, we studied antibody and T cell recognition of TSHR ectodomain peptides (A–Z). In transgenic and WT mice, regardless of Treg depletion, TSHR antibodies bound predominantly to N-terminal peptide A and much less to a few downstream peptides. After Treg depletion, splenocytes from WT mice responded to peptides C, D and J (all in the A-subunit), but transgenic splenocytes recognized only peptide D. Because CD4+ T cells are critical for thyroid lymphocytic infiltration, amino acid sequences of these peptides were examined for in silico binding to BALB/c major histocompatibility complex class II (IA–d). High affinity subsequences (inhibitory concentration of 50% < 50 nm) are present in peptides C and D (not J) of the hTSHR and mouse TSHR equivalents. These data probably explain why transgenic splenocytes do not recognize peptide J. Mouse TSHR mRNA levels are comparable in transgenic and WT thyroids, but only transgenics have human A-subunit mRNA. Transgenic mice can present mouse TSHR and human A-subunit-derived peptides. However, WT mice can present only mouse TSHR, and two to four amino acid species differences may preclude recognition by CD4+ T cells activated by hTSHR-adenovirus. Overall, thyroid lymphocytic infiltration in the transgenic mice is unrelated to epitopic spreading but involves human A-subunit peptides for recognition by T cells activated using the hTSHR.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-315
Number of pages11
JournalClinical and Experimental Immunology
Issue number3
Early online date22 Sept 2008
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • regulatory T cells
  • TSHR-transgenic mice
  • TSHR-T cell epitopes
  • thyroid infiltration
  • TSHR-antibody epitopes


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