Presence of antibodies in the sera of patients with graves’ disease recognizing a 23 kilodalton fibroblast protein

Rebecca S. Bahn, Colum A. Gorman, Christopher M. Johnson, Terry J. Smith

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65 Scopus citations


We examined whether antibodies (present in sera from patients with Graves’ disease) might be directed against a connective tissue cellular component of the anatomical regions affected in the peripheral manifestations of that disease. Accordingly, we performed immunoblot analyses of cultured retroocular and pretibial fibroblasts. Retroocular connective tissue was obtained during orbital decompression surgery (n = 7) and at autopsy from normal individuals (n = 2). Pretibial skin biopsies were obtained from patients with pretibial dermopathy (n = 3) and at autopsy (n = 2). In addition, biopsies from other regions [extraocular muscle (n = 6), thyroid (n = 2), and abdominal skin (n = 3)] were also collected at surgery or autopsy. Serum samples were obtained from patients with severe Graves' ophthalmopathy (n = 31), hyperthyroid Graves' disease without overt ophthalmopathy (n = 13), nodular thyroid disease (n = 7), Hashimoto's thyroiditis (n = 7), rheumatoid arthritis (n = 5), and systemic lupus erythematosus (n = 3) and from normal individuals (n = 33). Electrophoresed fibroblast proteins were immunoblotted with 1:100 dilutions of sera using an antihuman immunoglobulin G-alkaline phosphatase conjugate. Antibodies against a 23kDa fibroblast protein were present in the sera from 24 of 44 (56%) of patients with Graves' disease with or without ophthalmopathy, 0 of 7 nodular thyroid disease, 0 of 7 Hashimoto's thyroiditis, 0 of 5 rheumatoid arthritis, 0 of 3 systemic lupus erythematosus, and 5 of 33 (15%) normal subjects. Significant differences in the observed frequency of antibodies existed between the Graves' disease group and the normal control group (P < 0.01) or those patients with the other conditions (P < 0.01). This 23kDa antigen was apparent in fibroblasts derived from individuals with Graves' disease as well as normal individuals and was present in fibroblasts from all anatomical sites studied. It was the sole protein uniquely recognized by sera from patients with Graves' disease. However, this serum reactivity did not appear to be related to the presence of clinically overt ophthalmopathy or pretibial dermopathy. Subcellular localization studies disclosed that the antigen was present in the supernatant but not the pellet resulting from a 100, 000 x g centrifugation of whole cell sonicates. Antibodies against a 23kDa fibroblast protein are present in the majority of sera from patients with Graves' disease and rarely in sera from either normal individuals or those with other thyroid disorders or autoimmune diseases. Our results suggest the possibility that antibodies directed against this fibroblast antigen may be related to the development of the peripheral manifestations of Graves' disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)622-628
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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