Endocrine ophthalmopathy: a re-evaluation of the association with thyroid autoantibodies

Autoimmunity. 1992;14(2):143-8. doi: 10.3109/08916939209083133.


Autoantibodies to the three major thyroid autoantigens, the TSH-receptor (TSH-R), thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and thyroglobulin (TG), have been investigated in 63 Graves' patients with severe endocrine ophthalmopathy. In agreement with other studies, TSH-R antibodies were detectable in 88% of patients and dominated the autoantibody spectrum. TPO antibodies were detectable in 60% of patients and TG antibodies in only 25% of patients. The prevalences, as well as the amounts, of all three thyroid autoantibodies were not significantly different from the values in 51 Graves' patients without clinically significant ophthalmopathy. However, in the subgroup of patients with TG antibodies, the ophthalmopathy patients displayed a shift towards IgG4 TG antibodies. Furthermore, in the same TG antibody positive subgroup, the amount of TSH-R antibody was significantly higher in the ophthalmopathy patients than in Graves' patients without ophthalmopathy. These qualitative differences in thyroid autoantibodies in patients with and without ophthalmopathy raise the possibility that further qualitative differences, such as thyroid autoantibody epitopes, may exist in patients with ophthalmopathy. Our observations, combined with recent evidence for the presence of TSH-R specific mRNA in retro-orbital tissue, suggest that it may be premature to dismiss the potential pathogenetic or diagnostic value of thyroid autoantibodies, particularly TSH-R antibodies, in Graves' ophthalmopathy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Eye Diseases / etiology
  • Eye Diseases / immunology*
  • Female
  • Graves Disease / complications*
  • Graves Disease / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin G / classification
  • Immunoglobulins, Thyroid-Stimulating
  • Iodide Peroxidase / immunology
  • Male
  • Organ Specificity
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / immunology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Thyroglobulin / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulins, Thyroid-Stimulating
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin
  • thyroid microsomal antibodies
  • Thyroglobulin
  • Iodide Peroxidase