Serum antibodies reactive with eye muscle antigens and the TSH receptor in a euthyroid subject who developed ophthalmopathy and Graves' hyperthyroidism

Thyroid. 1996 Aug;6(4):353-8. doi: 10.1089/thy.1996.6.353.


Serum antibodies reactive with eye muscle autoantigens, in particular a 64-kDa protein that is also expressed in the thyroid, and the TSH receptor, are associated with the ophthalmopathy that occurs in about 50% of patients with Graves' hyperthyroidism. We have had the opportunity to study a euthyroid, apparently normal, 35-year-old woman with a family history of thyroid autoimmunity and "colitis" but no clinical or biochemical evidence for thyroid disease or ophthalmopathy, who developed Graves' hyperthyroidism and ophthalmopathy together 18 months later. Serum taken when the patient was first seen was positive for antibodies reactive with (i) 9 different eye muscle proteins ranging in size from 15 to 130 kDa, notably those of 64, 55, and 50 kDa, by immunoblotting with eye muscle membranes, (ii) eye muscle and Müller's muscle cell membrane antigens in antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC), (iii) an eye muscle cytoplasmic antigen in indirect immunofluorescence, and (iv) the TSH receptor as measured in a radioreceptor binding inhibition assay. When she developed Graves' disease, serum concentration of antibodies to the 55-kDa protein had decreased from +2 to +/-, those reactive with other eye muscle antigens had not changed significantly, and TSH receptor antibodies had increased 3-fold. This case report suggests that antibodies reactive with eye muscle antigens and the TSH receptor are markers of the ophthalmopathy and able to predict its development in predisposed subjects. The significance of these findings needs to be confirmed in a prospective study of first-degree relatives of patients with thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy and patients with Graves' hyperthyroidism without eye signs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibody-Dependent Cell Cytotoxicity
  • Blotting, Western
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Eye / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Graves Disease / complications
  • Graves Disease / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / metabolism*
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood


  • Receptors, Thyrotropin
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine