Current Insights into the Pathogenesis of Graves' Ophthalmopathy

R. S. Bahn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Environmental, genetic, and immune factors are at play in the development of the variable clinical manifestations of Graves' ophthalmopathy (GO). Among the environmental contributions, smoking is the risk factor most consistently linked to the development or worsening of the disease. The close temporal relationship between the diagnoses of Graves' hyperthyroidism and GO have long suggested that these 2 autoimmune conditions may share pathophysiologic features. The finding that the thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) is expressed in orbital fibroblasts, the target cells in GO, supported the notion of a common autoantigen. Both cellular and humeral immunity directed against TSHR expressed on orbital fibroblasts likely initiate the disease process. Activation of helper T cells recognizing TSHR peptides and ligation of TSHR by TRAb lead to the secretion of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, and enhanced hyaluronic acid (HA) production and adipogenesis. The resulting connective tissue remodeling results in varying degrees extraocular muscle enlargement and orbital fat expansion. A subset of orbital fibroblasts express CD34, are bone-marrow derived, and circulate as fibrocytes that infiltrate connective tissues at sites of injury or inflammation. As these express high levels of TSHR and are capable of producing copious cytokines and chemokines, they may represent an orbital fibroblast population that plays a central role in GO development. In addition to TSHR, orbital fibroblasts from patients with GO express high levels of IGF-1R. Recent studies suggest that these receptors engage in cross-talk induced by TSHR ligation to synergistically enhance TSHR signaling, HA production, and the secretion of inflammatory mediators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-778
Number of pages6
JournalHormone and Metabolic Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 14 2015


  • Graves' disease
  • IGF-1
  • TSH-receptor antibodies
  • thyroid stimulating hormone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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