Objective: Thyroid function and growth are controlled by TSH. Hyperthyroidism can be due to Graves' Disease (GD), in which thyroid-stimulating antibodies mimic TSH, or gain-of-function mutations in the TSH receptor (TSHR). These activating mutations have poor surface expression when assessed in non-thyroidal cells in vitro but nothing is known of their in vivo behaviour. Several TSHR antibodies have been produced but none has been applied to thyroid paraffin sections. This study aimed to develop a technique suitable for use on paraffin sections and apply it to investigate TSHR expression in thyroids harbouring activating TSHR germline mutations compared with normal and GD thyroids. Design and methods: Immunocytochemistry coupled with antigen retrieval, using a spectrum of antibodies to the TSHR, was applied to paraffin sections of GD thyroid tissue. Subsequently, TSHR immunoreactivity was examined in three normal thyroids, three patients with GD and three patients with familial hyperthyroidism, due to different gain-of-function TSHR germline mutations, using the optimised protocol. Results: Two antibodies, A10 and T3-495, to the extracellular domain (ECD) and membrane spanning region (MSR) of the TSHR respectively, produced specific basolateral staining of thyroid follicular cells. In normal and GD thyroids, basolateral staining with T3-495 was generally more intense than with A10, suggesting a possible surfeit of MSR over ECD. Graves' Disease thyroids have more abundant TSHR than normal glands. In contrast, thyroids harbouring gain-of-function mutations have the lowest expression in vivo, mirroring in vitro findings. Conclusions: The development of an immunocytochemical method applicable to paraffin sections has demonstrated that different molecular mechanisms causing hyperthyroidism result in the lowest (mutation) and highest (autoimmunity) levels of receptor at the thyrocyte surface.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism