Chemokines and their corresponding receptors are crucial for the recruitment of lymphocytes into the lymphoid organs and for its organization acting in a multistep process. Tissues affected by autoimmune disease often contain ectopic lymphoid follicles which, in the case of autoimmune thyroid disorders, are highly active and specific for thyroid Ags although its pathogenic role remains unclear. To understand the genesis of these lymphoid follicles, the expression of relevant cytokines and chemokines was assessed by real time PCR, immunohistochemistry and by in vitro assays in autoimmune and nonautoimmune thyroid glands. Lymphotoxin α, lymphotoxin β, C-C chemokine ligand (CCL) 21, CXC chemokine ligand (CXCL) 12, CXCL13, and CCL22 were increased in thyroids from autoimmune patients, whereas CXCL12, CXCL13, and CCL22 levels were significantly higher in autoimmune glands with ectopic secondary lymphoid follicles than in those without follicles. Interestingly, thyroid epithelium produced CXCL12 in response to proinflammatory cytokines providing a possible due for the understanding of how tissue stress may lead to ectopic follicle formation. The finding of a correlation between chemokines and thyroid autoantibodies further suggests that intrathyroidal germinal centers play a significant role in the autoimmune response. Unexpectedly, the percentage of circulating CXCR4+ T cells and CCR7+ B and T cells (but not of CXCR5) was significantly reduced in PBMCs of patients with autoimmune thyroid disease when they were compared with their intrathyroidal lymphocytes. This systemic effect of active intrathyroidal lymphoid tissue emerges as a possible new marker of thyroid autoimmune disease activity.