Thyrotropin receptor autoantibodies induce human thyroid cell growth and c-fos activation

G. K. Huber, R. Safirstein, D. Neufeld, T. F. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Graves' disease encompasses hyperthyroidism and a diffuse goiter associated with autoantibodies to the TSH receptor (TRAb). Although the cause of the goiter formation has been attributed to TRAb, the limited growth pattern of human adult thyroid cells in vitro has caused such a conclusion to be based on studies of nonhuman thyroid cell growth. We have recently characterized a predictable and precise technique for the measurement of human thyroid cell proliferation and function using fetal thyroid cells and have used this system to examine the influence of TRAb on human thyroid cell growth. Highly purified human immunoglobulin G (hIgG) preparations from normal individuals (n = 5) had no significant influence on human thyroid cell growth. However, hIgG from patients with detectable TRAb (TRAb-hIgG) (n = 13) induced a doserelated increase in extracellular cAMP (maximum effect at 0.1 mg/ml) and a 3-fold increase in human thyroid cell growth over a 4-day period (maximum effect at 1.5 mg/ml). Under basal thyroid cell culture conditions there were detectable, but low, levels of mRNA specific for the protooncogene c-fos, and this was markedly, and rapidly, induced by the addition of TRAb-hlgG but not normal hlgG. These data demonstrate induction of cellular growth by TRAb-hIgG in an homologous human thyroid cell culture system. Such observations support the hypothesis that goiter formation in patients with Graves' disease is, at least in part, secondary to the growth stimulating activity of TRAb-hIgG.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1142-1147
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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