Epitope Heterogeneity of Thyrotropin Receptor-Blocking Antibodies in Graves' Patients as Detected with Wild-Type versus Chimeric Thyrotropin Receptors
AbstractThe stable transfectants of wild-type (W25) and mutant thyrotropin-receptor (TSH-R) allow detection of the bioactivities of TSH-R antibodies in Graves' patients. A mutant Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell line (Mc1+2) transfected with a chimeric construct, where residues 8 to 165 of the TSH-R are replaced with residues 10 to 166 of the lutropin/choriogonadotropin (LH/CGR) receptor, lacks the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) response to most thyrotropin stimulating antibodies (TSAb), yet retains the response to TSH and acquires the response to LH/CG. We compared Mc1+2 cells with wild-type W25 cells for their ability to detect TSAb as well as thyrotropin-blocking antibodies (TBAb) in Graves' sera. Eighteen normal and 39 Graves' sera were tested for TSAb and TBAb levels by in vitro bioassays using W25 and Mc1+2 cells. In addition, these sera were also tested for thyrotropin-binding inhibitory activity (TBII) by a radioreceptor assay. Eighteen (47%) Graves' sera had TBAb activity measured with W25 cells but not with Mc1+2 cells. These TBAbs were, therefore, a population of antibodies with functional epitopes on the N-terminus of the extracellular domain. This TBAb activity by W25 cells exhibited a high degree of correlation with TBII levels by a radioreceptor assay ( r = 0.70, p = 0.001). Ten (25.6%) Graves' sera had positive TBAb activity in both W25 and Mc1+2 cells; moreover, their activity in both assays was similar ( r = 0.83, p < 0.001). The TBAb activity in these sera, however, did not correlate with TBII activity. Eleven (28%) Graves' sera had no TBAb activity. Overall, thyroid-stimulating antibodies were detected in 87% and 28% of the 39 Graves' sera by W25 and Mc1+2 cells, respectively. Thus, using the 2 cell lines, at least 2 distinct populations of TBAbs were detected. One is detected in a similar fashion by both W25 and Mc1+2 cell lines and likely interacts with the epitopes residing in the unaltered C-terminus of the TSH-R. The other is reactive in W25 cells only, indicating the loss of TBAb epitope in the chimeric receptor located in the N-terminus of the TSH-R. Furthermore, our results indicate that the TBAb binding epitope in 8-165 residues of the native TSH-R is highly associated with TBII activity in Graves' disease. These results indicate that patients with Graves' disease harbor TBAbs with epitope heterogeneity and favor the notion that there are different sites and mechanisms by which TBAbs act in Graves' patients. It remains to be determined whether or not TBAb subtyping will have a useful predictive role in the management of patients with Graves' disease.