Thyroid function and thyroid autoimmunity independently modulate serum concentration of soluble interleukin 2 (IL-2) receptor (sIL-2R) in thyroid disease

S. Mariotti, P. Caturegli, G. Barbesino, M. Marino, G. F. Del Prete, L. Chiovato, M. Tonacchera, M. De Carli, A. Pinchera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. The serum concentration of soluble interleukin-2 receptor (sIL-2R) is a marker of T-lymphocyte activation. Increased circulating sIL-2R has been reported in untreated Graves' disease. This finding has been interpreted as the consequence of the autoimmune activation, but recent data suggest that sIL-2R is directly correlated to thyroid state. The aim of this study was to elucidate the respective roles of autoimmunity and thyroid function in modulating serum sIL-2R. Design and patients. sIL-2R was evaluated in 20 normal euthyroid subjects and in a large series of patients with autoimmune and non-autoimmune thyroid disorders in different functional state. Measurements. sIL-2R was assayed by a solid-phase monoclonal antibody assisted ELISA method. Results. Serum sIL-2R in normals was 461 ± 186 U/ml (mean ± SD). Increased sIL-2R was found in 61 hyperthyroid patients with Graves' disease (1610 ± 962 U/ml, P <0.0001) and in 23 with toxic adenoma (1121 ± 598 U/ml, P <0.0001). Restoration of euthyroidism lowered to normal sIL-2R in both groups. Serum sIL-2R was higher in euthyroid Graves' disease patients with active than in those with non-active ophthalmopathy. Decreased serum sIL-2R (228 ± 93 U/ml, P <0.0001) was found in 30 patients hypothyroid after total thyroidectomy. Highly variable circulating sIL-2R (range 100-1456 U/ml, mean ± SD: 379 ± 301 U/ml) was found in 49 patients with hypothyroid Hashimoto's thyroiditis (P = NS vs normals; P <0.02 vs post-thyroidectomy hypothyroid patients). Treatment with L-thyroxine increased sIL-2R in all thyroidectomized and in the majority of Hashimoto's thyroiditis patients. In individual Hashimoto's thyroiditis patients (mostly with increased serum sIL-2R), L-thyroxine caused a decrease of circulating sIL-2R. sIL-2R was normal in 29 patients with euthyroid Hashmoto's thyroiditis. Both in Graves' disease and in Hashimoto's thyroiditis, no correlation was found between sIL-2R and anti-thyroglobulin, anti-thyroid peroxidase and anti-thyrotrophin-receptor autoantibodies. Highly significant positive correlation between serum thyroid hormones and sIL-2R was found in all study groups. Conclusions. In thyroid disorders thyroid hormones are the main regulator of serum sIL-2R concentration. The contribution of autoimmune activation may be detected only in some patients with autoimmune hypothyroidism, while in Graves' disease the role of the immune system is masked by the hyperthyroid state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-422
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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