Autoantigens in thyroid diseases

Springer Semin Immunopathol. 1993;14(3):285-307. doi: 10.1007/BF00195979.


The autoantigens involved in autoimmune thyroid disease have now been extensively characterised, and the autoantibodies they evoke provide important aids to diagnosis, leading to early treatment of thyroid autoimmunity. The next stage in the puzzle is to determine towards which epitopes on the autoantigens the immune response is directed. We have already come a long way in the identification of immunodominant epitopes and have been able to identify one T cell epitope which has pathogenic capabilities. Identification of other T cell and B cell epitopes will help us understand the cell-mediated and humoral responses in greater detail and in time lead to more specific therapeutic intervention. A greater understanding of the mechanisms underlying one particular autoimmune disease will give us insights into other diseases, due to the belief that there may well be common underlying defects that, due to a multitude of factors, manifest as different diseases. The susceptibility factors in autoimmune thyroidits and autoimmune disease in general are very complex. A greater understanding is required of HLA associations and how particular peptides are presented in vivo. Are susceptible MHC types the ones capable of presenting the pathogenic peptides? Our major T cell thyroiditogenic epitope contains a T4 residue which accounts for over half the molecular weight of the peptide. Its structure is large and consists of a double benzene ring structure with four iodine atoms. It will be interesting to see how such a peptide can be presented and which residues bind T cell receptor or MHC. In summary we can say that autoimmune disease is due to a cocktail of factors which all contrive to tip the delicate balance of the immune system into an autoimmune state. HLA association may play a role in conferring an enhanced ability to select from a restricted repertoire of pathogenic epitopes, those epitopes perhaps only becoming available for presentation after interaction with environmental agents, whatever they may be. Following this, the normal regulation of self presentation and tolerance mechanisms break down and autoimmunity supervenes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Thyroid Diseases / immunology*
  • Thyroiditis / immunology
  • Thyroxine / genetics
  • Thyroxine / immunology


  • Autoantigens
  • Epitopes
  • Thyroxine