We performed genetic immunization of outbred NMRI mice, using a cDNA encoding the human thyrotropin receptor (TSHr). All mice produced antibodies capable of recognizing the recombinant receptor expressed at the surface of stably transfected Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, and sera from most of the immunized mice blocked TSH-dependent stimulation of cAMP accumulation in cells expressing the TSHr. Five out of 29 female mice showed sign of hyperthyroidism including elevated total T4 and suppressed TSH levels. The serum of these mice contained thyroid-stimulating activity, as measured in a classic assay using CHO cells expressing recombinant TSHr. In contrast, only 1 male out of 30 had moderately elevated serum total T4 with undetectable TSH values. The hyperthyroid animals had goiters with extensive lymphocytic infiltration, characteristic of a Th2 immune response. In addition, these animals displayed ocular signs reminiscent of Graves’ ophthalmopathy, including edema, deposit of amorphous material, and cellular infiltration of their extraocular muscles. Our results demonstrate that genetic immunization of outbred NMRI mice with the human TSHr provides the most convincing murine model of Graves’ disease available to date.


Sabine Costagliola, Marie-Christine Many, Jean-François Denef, Joachim Pohlenz, Samuel Refetoff, Gilbert Vassart


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