Glycosaminoglycans in thyroid eye disease

Thyroid. 1998 May;8(5):429-32. doi: 10.1089/thy.1998.8.429.


Orbital accumulation of hydrophilic, interstitial glycosaminoglycans (GAG) and subsequent expansion of retrobulbar tissue lead to the clinical manifestation of exophthalmos in patients with thyroid eye disease (TED). In order to analyze whether the alteration of distribution pattern and biochemical composition of GAG and proteoglycans play a role in the development of the disease, a highly specific high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) method was developed. The concentration of total GAG, chondroitin sulfate A (CA), dermatan sulfate (DS), and hyaluronic acid (HA) was determined in patients and controls, revealing marked differences in urinary concentration of total GAG and HA, as well as an elevation of CA in patients versus controls. Method sensitivity was 0.86 for patients with active disease, and 0.87 for patients with untreated ophthalmopathy, whereas specificity was 1.0 for patients with inactive disease. Patients with increased GAG concentration responded well to steroids and/or orbital irradiation. Furthermore, distribution pattern of orbital extracellular matrix GAG exhibited a significant increase in the tissue fractions of CA and HA in patients with TED in comparison to controls. In conclusion, GAG polysaccharides not only play a major role in the pathogenesis of TED but have been successfully introduced as an activity marker of the disease.

MeSH terms

  • Chondroitin Sulfates / metabolism
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / urine
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Glycosaminoglycans / metabolism
  • Glycosaminoglycans / urine*
  • Graves Disease / metabolism
  • Graves Disease / urine*
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid / metabolism
  • Hyaluronic Acid / urine
  • Orbit / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Chondroitin Sulfates