Graves’ disease results from thyroid-stimulating Abs (TSAbs) activating the thyrotropin receptor (TSHR). How TSAbs arise from early precursor B cells has not been established. Genetic and environmental factors may contribute to pathogenesis, including the bacterium Yersinia enterocolitica. We developed two pathogenic monoclonal TSAbs from a single experimental mouse undergoing Graves’ disease, which shared the same H and L chain germline gene rearrangements and then diversified by numerous somatic hypermutations. To address the Ag specificity of the shared germline precursor of the monoclonal TSAbs, we prepared rFab germline, which showed negligible binding to TSHR, indicating importance of somatic hypermutation in acquiring TSAb activity. Using rFab chimeras, we demonstrate the dominant role of the H chain V region in TSHR recognition. The role of microbial Ags was tested with Y. enterocolitica proteins. The monoclonal TSAbs recognize 37-kDa envelope proteins, also recognized by rFab germline. MALDI-TOF identified the proteins as outer membrane porin (Omp) A and OmpC. Using recombinant OmpA, OmpC, and related OmpF, we demonstrate cross-reactivity of monoclonal TSAbs with the heterogeneous porins. Importantly, rFab germline binds recombinant OmpA, OmpC, and OmpF confirming reactivity with Y. enterocolitica. A human monoclonal TSAb, M22 with similar properties to murine TSAbs, also binds recombinant porins, showing cross-reactivity of a spontaneously arising pathogenic Ab with Y. enterocolitica. The data provide a mechanistic framework for molecular mimicry in Graves’ disease, where early precursor B cells are expanded by Y. enterocolitica porins to undergo somatic hypermutation to acquire a cross-reactive pathogenic response to TSHR.
This work was supported by a King’s College London studentship (to C.E.H.). A.M.B. is a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Research Fellow.
The online version of this article contains supplemental material.
- Received December 14, 2012.
- Accepted March 25, 2013.
- Copyright © 2013 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.