The thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) is the key autoantigen in Graves’ disease (GD) and associated orbitopathy (GO). Antibodies targeting the TSHR (TSHR-Ab) impact the pathogenesis and the course of GO. This review discusses the role and clinical relevance of TSHR-Ab in GO.
Review of the current and pertinent literature.
GO is the most common extrathyroidal manifestation of GD and is caused by persistent, unregulated stimulation of TSHR-expressing orbital target cells (e.g. fibroblasts and pre-adipocytes). Serum TSHR-Ab and more specifically, the stimulatory Ab (TSAb) are observed in the vast majority of patients with GD and GO. TSHR-Ab are a sensitive serological parameter for the differential diagnosis of GO. TSHR-Ab can be detected either with conventional binding immunoassays that measure binding of Ab to the TSHR or with cell-based bioassays that provide information on their functional activity and potency. Knowledge of the biological activity and not simply the presence or absence of TSHR-Ab has relevant clinical implications e.g. predicting de-novo development or exacerbation of pre-existing GO. TSAb are specific biomarkers of GD/GO and responsible for many of its clinical manifestations. TSAb strongly correlate with the clinical activity and clinical severity of GO. Further, the magnitude of TSAb indicates the onset and acuity of sight-threatening GO (optic neuropathy). Baseline serum values of TSAb and especially dilution analysis of TSAb significantly differentiate between thyroidal GD only versus GD + GO.
Measurement of functional TSHR-Ab, especially TSAb, is clinically relevant for the differential diagnosis and management of GO.