Purpose: To report a case of orbital fat expansion leading to globe prolapse in a Graves' disease patient undergoing high-dose glucocorticoid therapy. To evaluate the growth factor receptor specificities of plasma autoantibodies in Graves' disease patients who exhibited contrasting subtypes of thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy, i.e. orbital fat expansion-type vs. infiltrative.
Methods: Sera from Graves' orbitopathy and control patients with or without Graves' disease were subjected to protein-A affinity chromatography to obtain immunoglobulin G. A (1/50th to 1/1600th) range in dilutions of the protein-A eluate fraction was incubated for four days at 37 degrees C with bovine pulmonary artery endothelial cells to test for endothelial cell inhibition or stimulation. Growth stimulatory autoantibodies were co-incubated with specific neutralizing anti-insulin like growth factor 1 receptor antibodies or anti-basic fibroblast growth factor antibodies to assess autoantibody specificity in contrasting Graves' orbitopathy subtypes.
Results: We observed increased mean endothelial cell growth promoting activity in the protein-A eluates of serum from eighteen patients with active Graves' disease (117 ± 28%, n = 18) compared to mean endothelial cell activity (89 ± 10%, n = 13, P = 0.003) in thirteen adults without Graves' disease. The protein-A eluate fraction in acute infiltrative-type Graves' orbitopathy contained a high titer (> 1:1000) of endothelial cell stimulatory activity which was significantly neutralized by specific monoclonal anti-human insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor antibodies. The protein-A eluate fraction in fat expansion-type Graves' orbitopathy contained endothelial cell inhibitory activity (at low titers) and stimulatory activity (at high titers), and the latter stimulatory activity was completely neutralized by specific anti-basic fibroblast growth factor antibodies.
Conclusion: Graves' disease suffering globe prolapse secondary to marked orbital fat-expansion had coexisting plasma fibroblast growth factor-inhibitory and -stimulatory autoantibodies. The latter was completely neutralized by anti-basic fibroblast growth factor antibodies.
Keywords: Graves’ disease; autoantibodies; fibroblast growth factor; thyroid associated ophthalmopathy.