The thyrotrophin receptor (TSHR) provides an autoantigenic link between the thyroid and orbit in Graves' (GD) and thyroid eye diseases (TED). We measured TSHR transcripts in different fat depots to determine whether TSHR expression levels are influenced by the autoimmune/inflammatory process and/or thyroid hormone status, using quantitative real-time PCR. Nine intact or fractionated adipose samples, from patients with GD and/or TED, were analysed ex vivo. Eight expressed the TSHR, at levels approaching the thyroid, and one was at the limit of detection. Thirteen/fifteen orbital and abdominal fat samples from patients free of GD and TED, measured ex vivo, were negative for TSHR transcripts and two were at the limit of detection. All preadipocyte samples induced to differentiate in vitro expressed the TSHR. To investigate the influence of thyroid hormone status on adipose TSHR expression, we induced hyper- and hypothyroidism in BALBc mice by administering tri-iodothyronine and propylthiouracil respectively. In euthyroid animals, whole fat samples were at the limit of detection and were not altered by thyroid hormone status. The results show that adipose TSHR expression ex vivo indicates adipogenesis in progress in vivo and is associated with the autoimmune/inflammatory process in GD and TED but is not restricted to the orbit or influenced by thyroid hormone status.
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