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Autoantibodies to the IGF1 receptor in Graves' orbitopathy.

CONTEXT: Graves' disease (GD) is maintained by stimulating antibodies against the TSH receptor. Graves' orbitopathy (GO) is the main extrathyroidal manifestation of GD, potentially involving autoimmunity against the IGF1 receptor (IGF1R).

OBJECTIVE: We tested for autoantibodies against the IGF1R (IGF1R-Abs) in sera of GD patients and controls and elucidated their possible implication in the disease.

DESIGN: A diagnostic assay for IGF1R-Ab was established with recombinant human IGF1R as autoantigen. Serum samples or purified Ig preparations were analyzed for IGF1R binding and modulation of IGF1 signaling in vitro. A total of 108 consecutive GO patients represented on average by 5.4 separate serum samples per individual along with 92 healthy controls were analyzed.

RESULTS: IGF1R-Ab were detected in 10 serum samples from control subjects (11%) and in 60 samples (10%) from the GO patient serum bank. The positive patient samples were derived from 15 individuals yielding an IGF1R-Ab prevalence of 14% in GO. More than three consecutive samples were available from 11 of the 15 positive GO patients spanning an average disease period of 2 years. IGF1R-Ab concentrations were constantly elevated in these patients demonstrating relatively stable IGF1R-Ab expression over time. IGF1R-Ab failed to stimulate IGF1R autophosphorylation but instead inhibited IGF1-induced signaling in hepatocarcinoma HepG2 cells. Similarly, growth of MCF7 breast cancer cells was inhibited by IGF1R-Ab, supporting their classification as IGF1 antagonists.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data demonstrate the existence of IGF1R-Abs in humans but do not support the hypothesis that the IGF1R-Abs contribute to GO pathogenesis.

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