The putative role of fibroblasts in the pathogenesis of Graves' disease: evidence for the involvement of the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor in fibroblast activation

Autoimmunity. 2003 Sep-Nov;36(6-7):409-15. doi: 10.1080/08916930310001603000.


Graves' disease when fully expressed affects the thyroid gland and connective tissues of the orbit and pretibium. While the glandular disease is relatively well-characterized, the pathogenesis of the orbital and dermal components remains enigmatic. In the following article, we review some of the evidence suggesting that fibroblast activation in Graves' disease might play an integral role in the tissue remodeling associated with ophthalmopathy. The thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) is expressed at low levels in several connective tissue depots and by their derivative fibroblasts, including those from the orbit. Little direct evidence currently links extra-thyroidal TSHR expression with Graves' disease. Very recent observations now implicate the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R) as a fibroblast activating antigen. When immunoglobulins from patients with the disease, with or without clinical ophthalmopathy, bind IGF-1R on the surface of fibroblasts, the receptor becomes activated and upregulates the expression of two T lymphocyte chemoattractants, IL-16 and RANTES. Thus, IGF-1R may represent a second self-antigen with a pathogenic role in extra-thyroidal Graves' disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens*
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Fibroblasts / immunology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Graves Disease / immunology
  • Graves Disease / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Orbit
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1 / immunology*
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / immunology
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / metabolism


  • Autoantigens
  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1