We have investigated at the clonal level the repertoire of intrathyroid and peripheral T lymphocytes in three patients with Graves' disease using a high efficiency cloning technique. Clonal efficiencies ranged from 10 to 31% for intrathyroid, and from 19 to 100% for peripheral T cells. In Graves' disease the phenotypic analysis showed similar percentages of CD3+ CD4+ CD8- and CD3+ CD4- CD8+ clones in thyroid infiltrates and peripheral blood. The functional evaluation showed similar or lower proportions of cytolytic clones in thyroid infiltrates with respect to peripheral blood. Furthermore, the proportions of intrathyroid and peripheral T-cell clones capable of releasing interleukin-2 and/or γ-interferon in response to mitogen stimulation were similar. Finally, 44% of intrathyroid clones were neither cytolytic nor able to release IL-2 and γ-interferon. These results are strikingly different from those obtained in Hashimoto's thyroiditis, where the large majority of intrathyroid T-cell clones are cytolytic and the proportions of clones able to release γ-IFN are remarkably increased in thyroid infiltrates when compared to those obtained from peripheral blood. Taken together, these data suggest a different role for T lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of the two major human autoimmune thyroid diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine