Thyrotropin receptor-specific lymphocytes in adenovirus-TSHR-immunized native and human leukocyte antigen-DR3-transgenic mice and in Graves' disease patient blood


  • H. Degen
  • I. Gavvovidis
  • T. Blankenstein
  • K. Uhland
  • M. Ungerer


  • Thyroid


  • Thyroid 31 (6): 950-963


  • BACKGROUND: Antigen-specific lymphocytes are increasingly investigated in autoimmune diseases and immune therapies. We sought to identify thyrotropin receptor (TSHR)-specific lymphocytes in mouse models of Graves' disease, including Graves' patient-specific immunotype human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR3, and in frozen and thawed Graves' patient blood samples. METHODS AND RESULTS: Splenic lymphocytes of adenovirus (Ad)-TSHR-immunized BALB/c mice were stimulated with TSHR-specific peptides C, D, or J. Furthermore, CD154-expressing cells were enriched, expanded in vitro, and analyzed for binding of peptide-major histocompatibility complex (MHC) II multimers ("tetramers," immunotype H2-IA(d)). Only peptides C and J were able to elicit increased expression/secretion of CD154 and interferon-γ, and tetramers which were loaded with peptide C resulted in antigen-specific signals in splenic lymphocytes from Ad-TSHR-immunized mice. Accordingly, TSHR-specific HLA-DR3-MHC class II tetramers loaded with peptide p10 specifically bound to human HLA-DR3-(allele B1*03:01)-transgenic Bl/6 mouse splenic T lymphocytes. In addition, we fine-tuned a protocol to reliably measure thawed human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), which resulted in reliable recovery after freezing and thawing with regard to vitality and B and T cell subpopulation markers including regulatory T cells (CD3, CD4, CD25, FoxP3, CD25(high), CD127(low)). TSHR-specific HLA-DR3-MHC class II tetramers loaded with peptide p10 identified antigen-specific T cells in HLA-DR3-positive Graves' patients' thawed PBMCs. Moreover, stimulation-dependent release of interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha from thawed PBMCs occurred at the expected levels. CONCLUSIONS: Novel MHC II tetramers identified TSHR-specific T lymphocytes in Ad-TSHR-immunized hyperthyroid BALB/c or HLA-DR3-transgenic mice and in thawed human PBMCs from patients with Graves' disease. These assays may contribute to measure both disease severity and effects of novel immune therapies in future animal studies and clinical investigations of Graves' disease.