Cytokine profiles in eye muscle tissue and orbital fat tissue from patients with thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Mar;85(3):1194-9. doi: 10.1210/jcem.85.3.6433.


Eye muscle (EM) and retroorbital fat tissue are two major sites of involvement in thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy (TAO). Lymphocytic infiltration in these tissues is a prominent histological feature of TAO. We have investigated the cytokine gene profiles in EM and orbital fat (OF) tissues from patients with TAO. Total RNA was isolated from EM tissue of 14 patients and from OF tissues of 29 patients with TAO. Cytokine gene expression was assessed by RT-PCR using paired primers for interferon gamma (IFNgamma), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha), interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, CD4, CD8, and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase. IFNgamma, TNFalpha, IL-1beta, and IL-6 messenger RNA (mRNA) were mainly detected in EM tissue, whereas IL-4 and IL-10 mRNA were detected in only one patient. On the other hand, in OF tissue, IL-4 and IL-10 mRNA were detected in 24% and 38% of the patients, respectively, and IFNgamma, IL-1beta, and IL-6 mRNA were less often detected compared with EM tissue. The enlargement of EM tissue as assessed by computed tomography correlated significantly with TNFalpha mRNA expression in EM tissue. The orbital volume was positively correlated with IL-6 mRNA expression and negatively correlated with IL-4 mRNA and IL-10 mRNA expression in OF tissue. These results suggest that T helper (Th) 1-like cytokines predominate in EM tissue in most patients and that the predominant cytokine profile in OF tissue varies from patient to patient. Both Th1-like and Th2-like immune responses may play roles in the development of two components of ophthalmopathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Graves Disease / genetics
  • Graves Disease / metabolism*
  • Graves Disease / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oculomotor Muscles / metabolism*
  • Oculomotor Muscles / pathology
  • Orbit
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Cytokines
  • RNA, Messenger