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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Induction of circulating activated suppressor-like T cells by methimazole therapy for Graves' disease.

Thyrostatic drug treatment of Graves' disease suppresses excessive thyroid hormone synthesis and causes a parallel decrease in serum thyroid autoantibody levels. The mechanism of this immunosuppression is unknown. We studied methimazole-induced immunoregulatory effects prospectively in 14 patients with Graves' disease treated for up to six months. The numbers of circulating activated, HLA-DR-positive T helper/inducer cells decreased gradually, from 8.3+1.7 percent (+SD) to 1.0+1.7 percent (P less than 0.001). HLA-DR-positive T suppressor/cytotoxic cells increased transiently at one month, from 2.0+1.9 percent to 12.6+6.4 percent (P less than 0.001), and returned to 2.9+3.7 percent at six months. Methimazole did not alter the HLA-DR expression of T cells in vitro. In two patients, the helper activity of T cells in inducing autoantibody secretion in vitro was substantially reduced after one month of methimazole treatment. Before treatment, large proportions of thyroid-infiltrating T-cell subsets expressed the activation markers HLA-DR, interferon-gamma, and interleukin-2 receptors, which were partially lost during therapy. Methimazole treatment was accompanied by a gradual reduction in circulating levels of thyrotropin-receptor, microsomal, and thyroglobulin autoantibodies. These results are compatible with the view that methimazole-induced immunoregulation in Graves' disease is mediated by a direct inhibitory effect on thyrocytes. This inhibition is in turn accompanied by marked changes in the proportions of activated T helper-like and T suppressor-like cells. This altered T-cell activation profile reflects, at least in part, the functional suppression of autoantibody production observed in methimazole-treated patients with Graves' disease.[1]


  1. Induction of circulating activated suppressor-like T cells by methimazole therapy for Graves' disease. Tötterman, T.H., Karlsson, F.A., Bengtsson, M., Mendel-Hartvig, I. N. Engl. J. Med. (1987) [Pubmed]
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