Alterations in serum glycosaminoglycan profiles in Graves' patients

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Qualitative and quantitative analyses of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in serum obtained from Graves' disease (GD) patients without extrathyroidal complications were carried out to provide a clearer understanding of the role of these macromolecules in the disease pathogenesis.


GAGs were isolated from serum of 17 GD patients before treatment and after attainment of the euthyroid state, as well as from 20 healthy individuals. GAGs were quantified using the hexuronic acid assay and subjected to electrophoretic fractionation.


Increased amounts of total GAGs were found in GD patients. Attainment of euthyroidism led to a decrease in, but not normalization of, total serum GAGs level. Electrophoretic analyses of GAGs before and after treatment identified the presence of chondroitin sulfate (CS), heparan sulfate/heparin (HS/H) and dermatan sulfate (DS) in serum from healthy subjects and GD patients. CS was the predominant serum GAG constituent in all subjects investigated. Enhanced CS levels in both GD patient groups were accompanied by increased structural heterogeneity of these compounds. Normalization of thyroid function did not change CS levels. DS levels in serum of untreated GD patients were elevated in comparison to healthy subjects. Anti-thyroid treatment led to a significant decrease in DS to levels below those in controls. DS in all serum samples investigated displayed a similar structure. HS/H levels in serum of untreated GD patients was seven-fold higher than in healthy subjects. In addition, HS/H in untreated GD patients were characterized by higher structural heterogeneity than those isolated from control subjects and euthyroid GD patients. Anti-thyroid therapy led to a decrease in HS/H concentrations towards normal values.


Our results indicate that in the course of GD, the metabolism of particular types of GAGs is regulated by different mechanisms, including a hyperthyroid state and immunological abnormalities. Furthermore, qualitative and quantitative changes in serum GAGs seem to reflect GD-associated systemic changes in extracellular matrix properties.

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