Graves’ orbitopathy occurs sex-independently in an autoimmune hyperthyroid mouse model

Graves’ orbitopathy (GO) is the most common extra thyroidal complication of Graves’ disease (GD) and occurs predominantly in women but more severe in men. The reason for this effect of gender on GO is unknown. Herein we studied the manifestation of GO in both sexes of an induced mouse model in absence of additional risk factors present in patients like advanced age, genetic variabilities or smoking. Male and female mice were immunized with human TSHR A-subunit encoding plasmid. Both sexes comparably developed autoimmune hyperthyroidism characterized by TSHR stimulating autoantibodies, elevated T4 values, hyperplastic thyroids and hearts. Autoimmune mice developed inflammatory eye symptoms and proptosis, although males earlier than females. Serial in vivo 1H/19F-magnetic resonance imaging revealed elevated inflammatory infiltration, increased fat volume and glycosaminoglycan deposition in orbits of both sexes but most significantly in female mice. Histologically, infiltration of T-cells, extension of brown fat and overall collagen deposition were characteristics of GO in male mice. In contrast, female mice developed predominately macrophage infiltration in muscle and connective tissue, and muscle hypertrophy. Apart from sex-dependent variabilities in pathogenesis, disease classification revealed minor sex-differences in incidence and total outcome. In conclusion, sex does not predispose for autoimmune hyperthyroidism and associated GO.


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