Graves' disease in Caucasians is associated with the major histocompatibility (MHC) antigen HLA-DR3. One approach to studying the role of susceptibility genes involves the use of mice that lack murine MHC and instead express human HLA antigens. Although Graves' disease does not arise spontaneously in animals, thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) antibodies can be induced in mice by vaccination with TSHR-DNA in a plasmid. In the present study, we characterized TSHR antibodies and thyroiditis developing in HLA-DR3 transgenic mice vaccinated with TSHR-DNA. As controls, we used mice transgenic for HLA-DQ6b, an MHC antigen rarely associated with Graves' disease. We observed that approximately 30% of DR3-, but none of DQ6b-transgenic mice, developed TSHR antibodies detectable by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The cysteine-rich amino terminal peptide was the dominant linear antibody epitope in DR3 mice, as in other strains vaccinated with TSHR-DNA. Sera from some vaccinated DR3 mice were positive on flow cytometry using intact cells expressing the TSHR, demonstrating recognition of the native TSHR on the cell surface. Although none of the these mice had thyroid stimulating antibodies or were hyperthyroid, a few developed lymphocytic infiltration of the thyroid. These data, together with information for other mouse strains, demonstrate that MHC (human and murine) and non-MHC genes contribute to the outcome of TSHR-DNA vaccination and indicate the potential value of DR3 transgenic mice for dissecting immune responses to the TSHR.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism