Thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy (TAO) is an orbital autoimmune disorder of the extraocular and eyelid muscles and surrounding connective and adipose tissue. Although mononuclear cell infiltration of orbital tissue is a characteristic feature of TAO the likely role of T lymphocyte reactivity against eye muscle antigens in the initiation of eye muscle damage in TAO has not been explored in detail. Therefore, we tested for T lymphocyte sensitisation to three eye muscle antigens namely, calsequestrin, G2s and flavoprotein (Fp), in patients with Graves' ophthalmopathy (GO), Graves' hyperthyroidism (GH) without ophthalmopathy and age and sex matched normal subjects. T lymphocyte reactivity was determined in a proliferation assay, results being expressed as stimulation index (SI). Mean ( ± SE) SI for patients with GO, but not GH without ophthalmopathy, were significantly greater than that for normal subjects for calsequestrin and Fp, but not G2s. Mean ( ± SE) SI was also significantly increased in patients with active ophthalmopathy, but not chronic ophthalmopathy, compared to normal subjects, for calsequestrin and Fp, but not G2s. Overall, positive lymphocyte proliferation to calsequestrin was demonstrated in 59% of patients with GO and 33% of patients with GH, which was significantly greater than in normals for both groups. In conclusion, we have demonstrated significant T lymphocyte reactivity to calsequestrin and, to a lesser extent, Fp in patients with GO. Because calsequestrin is located in the cell membranes of the eye muscle cell during the myotubular stage of the cell cycle, its targeting might be the primary reaction which leads to extraocular muscle inflammation in patients with GH.
- Graves’ disease
- thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy
- lymphocyte proliferation assay