While it is generally accepted that thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy (TAO), a progressive inflammatory disorder of the extraocular muscle and orbital connective tissue (OCT), is immunologically mediated the nature of the underlying abnormalities is poorly understood. Although there is considerable evidence for antibody-mediated immunity against both eye muscle (EM) and OCT antigens in TAO a role of cell-mediated immunity (CMI) has not been studied in detail. We have used a new sensitive test for CMI, the leukocyte pro-coagulant activity (LPCA) assay and tested blood leukocytes from patients with TAO and autoimmune thyroid disease (ATD) without evident ophthalmopathy for reactivity against pig eye muscle (PEM) and human thyroid and OCT membrane and soluble fractions. In some cases human EM fractions were also tested. Preparations of PEM membrane (PEMM) and human thyroid membrane induced a significant LPCA response in both groups of patients. PEM cytosol, human OCT membrane and cytosol and human spleen membrane did not evoke a significant response in either group of patients. There were significant positive correlations in patients with TAO between (i) LPCA in response to PEMM and that to human thyroid membrane and (ii) LPCA in response to human thyroid membrane and that to human EM membrane. In patients with TAO there were no significant associations between LPCA response to PEMM and the detection of serum antibodies to a 64 kDa EM membrane protein in immunoblotting, or between LPCA response to PEMM and the duration or severity of the ophthalmopathy or clinical evidence for eye muscle involvement. These findings confirm a role of cell-mediated immunity against eye muscle antigens in thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy. Although the nature of the target antigens and their relationship to those targeted by antibodies is unknown, the possibility that CMI against thyroid and eye muscle shared antigens may play a role in the association of ophthalmopathy with autoimmune thyroid disease is suggested by these findings.
- Cell-mediated immunity
- Eye muscle. Graves' disease
- Leukocyte procoagulant activity assay
- Thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy