The production and characterization of thyroid-derived T-cell lines in Graves' disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis

Anthony P. Weetman, David J. Volkman, Kenneth D. Burman, Joseph B. Margolick, Patricia Petrick, Bruce D. Weintraub, Anthony S. Fauci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Although the thyroid gland itself is a major site of the autoimmune response, the study of T-cell function in autoimmune thyroid disease has usually relied on peripheral blood as a source of cells. In this study, we have established thyroid-derived T-cell lines from six patients with Graves' disease and one patient with Hashimoto's thyroiditis by culturing the thyroid lymphocytes on an autologous thyroid follicular cell monolayer in the presence of exogenous interleukin 2 (IL-2). These T-cell lines have allowed in vitro investigation of thyroid-derived T-cell function, an approach which was previously limited by the number of lymphocytes obtained from the gland. The lines were predominantly OKT3, OKT4, and HLA-DR positive but showed heterogenous proliferative responses. Some lines gave autologous or allogeneic mixed lymphocyte reactions but other did not. Only one of the seven lines responded well to the thyroid antigens thyroglobulin and microsomes presented by autologous monocytes. However, six of the lines proliferated in the presence of live but not dead autologous thyroid follicular cells, particularly when interferon-γ (IFN-γ) was added. This treatment has been shown to enhance HLA-DR and -DQ antigen expression by thyroid follicular cells in vitro. Furthermore, the proliferation induced by IFN-γ-treated thyroid follicular cells was increased when thyroglobulin was also added. Together these results support the hypothesis that the expression of Ia antigens such as HLA-DR by thyroid follicular cells in autoimmune thyroid disease may be important in enhancing the autoimmune response, conferring on these cells the ability to present thyroid autoantigens to T cells. The use of thyroid-derived T-cell lines should permit a more detailed evaluation of the disordered immunoregulation in Graves' disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis than has been possible previously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-150
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Immunology


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