We studied the tissue specificity of eye muscle (EM) membrane-reactive autoantibodies detected in the serum of patients with thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy (TAO). In preliminary studies, such antibodies were shown to react, in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and Western blotting, with human thyroid (THY) and other human skeletal muscle (HSM) membrane antigens. We carried out absorption with human EM (HEM), THY, and HSM membranes of sera from patients with TAO and autoimmune thyroid disease without ophthalmopathy which reacted with one or more of 55-, 64-, and 95-kDa antigens in pig eye muscle (PEM) membrane in immunoblotting, the majority of which were also cytotoxic to HEM cells in an antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity assay. In Western blotting, serum antibodies reactive with PEM membrane antigens of 55, 64, and 95 kDa were cross-absorbed by HEM, THY, and HSM but not by spleen or brain membranes and showed some species specificity, being absorbed by pig and human, but not bovine, EM membranes. When incubated with cultured HEM, THY, and HSM cells in vitro, autoantibodies in TAO sera immunoprecipitated a 64-kDa antigen from the first two tissues, but not from HSM, suggesting a specific binding to autoantigenic epitopes in HEM and THY. Sera from patients with TAO as well as those from patients with thyroid autoimmunity without ophthalmopathy immunoprecipitated a ≈66-kDa protein, shown to be distinct from the 64-kDa antigen. The restricted immunological cross-reactivity of antibodies to a THY and HEM 64-kDa membrane antigen is discussed in the context of the association of ophthalmopathy with thyroid autoimmunity. Further experiments are needed to show whether autoantibodies to the 64-kDa eye muscle and thyroid shared antigen are cytotoxic, and thus likely to play a major role in the pathogenesis of the eye disease, or just markers of the orbital autoimmune process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine