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Heufelder, Armin E.; Wenzel, Björn E. and Scriba, Peter C. (1996): Antigen receptor variable region repertoires expressed by T cells infiltrating thyroid, retroorbital, and pretibial tissue in Graves' disease. In: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Vol. 81, No. 10: pp. 3733-3739 [PDF, 1MB]

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To date, it has remained unclear whether T cells infiltrating thyroid, retroorbital, and pretibial tissue of patients with Graves' ophthalmopathy and pretibial dermopathy represent a primary immune response that is directed against certain antigenic determinants shared among these involved tissues. To characterize these T cells at the molecular level, we compared the T cell antigen receptor (TcR) variable (V) region gene usage in thyroid, retroorbital, pretibial tissue, and peripheral blood mononuclear cells of two patients with Graves' disease, ophthalmopathy, and pretibial dermopathy. Ribonucleic acid was extracted, reverse transcribed, and amplified using the PCR and 22 V alpha and 23 V beta gene-specific oligonucleotide primers. The resulting TcR V alpha and V beta transcripts were verified by Southern hybridization analysis using TcR C region-specific, digoxigenin-labeled oligonucleotide probes. In addition, complementarity determining regions 3 and junctional regions of TcR V beta genes were sequenced. Marked similarities of intrathyroidal, retroorbital, and pretibial TcR V alpha and V beta gene repertoires were noted with respect to the degree of TcR V gene restriction and the patterns of individual V genes expressed. Sequence analysis of junctional domains of V beta families revealed oligoclonality of intrahyroidal, retroorbital, and pretibial T cells. In addition, certain conserved junctional motifs were shared by T cells derived the thyroid gland and the extrathyroidal sites. Our results suggest that in the two patients with Graves' disease and extrathyroidal manifestations studied, similar antigenic determinants may have contributed to the recruitment and oligoclonal expansion of T cells both within the thyroid gland and at the involved extrathyroidal sites.

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