Graves-like hyperthyroidism is induced in BALB/c mice by immunization with adenovirus expressing the human TSH receptor (TSHR) A-subunit (amino acids 1-289). However, because of nonidentity between the human and mouse TSHR ( approximately 87% amino acid homology), we compared the responses of mice immunized with adenoviruses expressing either the mouse or the human TSHR A-subunit. Wild-type (wt) BALB/c mice immunized with the mouse A-subunit developed neither TSHR antibodies (measured by flow cytometry) nor thyroid lymphocytic infiltration. However, wt C57BL/6 mice developed sparse intrathyroidal lymphocyte infiltration without antibody production. Depletion of naturally occurring regulatory CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells had little effect. These results indicate the inability to break tolerance to the mouse TSHR in wt mice. In contrast, TSHR knockout (KO) BALB/c mice generated mouse TSHR antibodies in response to mouse A-subunit immunization and augmented human TSHR antibody response to human A-subunit immunization. Thyroid-stimulating antibody titers measured in a functional bioassay were comparable in human A-subunit immunized wt mice and in TSHR KO mice immunized with either the mouse or human A-subunit. In conclusion, immune response to the mouse TSHR is readily induced in TSHR KO but not in wt mice. Only in the former does immunization with adenovirus expressing the mouse A-subunit generate antibodies capable of activating the mouse TSHR. TSHR KO mice are, therefore, of value for future studies dissecting the autoimmune response to the mouse TSHR.
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