NCAM (CD56) is a cell surface glycoprotein of the immunoglobulin superfamily expressed on neuroendocrine and natural killer (NK) cells which has considerable molecular heterogeneity due to differential splicing and post-translational modifications. NCAM has been detected in the thyroid follicular cells (thyrocytes) immunohistologically. We report here the molecular form, the modulation by cytokines and the levels of expression in thyroid pathology. By using a panel of MoAbs to NCAM on Western blots from thyrocyte extract we have determined that these cells express the 140- and 180-kD forms of NCAM. Exposure of primary cultures of thyrocytes to interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), and even more, to the combination of IFN-γ plus tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) induced a clear increase in the expression of NCAM as assessed by FACS analysis. NCAM expression in thyrocytes was assessed by immunofluorescence in 59 surgical specimens of thyroid glands, and was found increased in 11/17 (64%) of Graves', in 5/25 (20%) of multinodular goitre (MNG) and in occasional adenoma glands. No correlation was found with the expression of HLA class I, class II or the degree of lymphocytic infiltration scored in adjacent sections, but it was often seen in areas infiltrated by macrophages. In conclusion, NCAM is an adhesion molecule whose expression is clearly increased in thyrocytes in autoimmune glands, probably as a consequence of exposure to cytokines locally released. Since one of the forms of NCAM expressed by thyrocytes has the capability to generate intracellular signal it may play a role in normal thyroid function. In addition, NCAM may facilitate the recognition of thyrocytes by lymphocytes, particularly by NK CD56+ lymphocytes.
|Journal||Clinical and Experimental Immunology|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 1994|
- Graves' disease
- neural cell adhesion molecule
- thyroid autoimmunity