Depletion of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells exacerbates sodium iodide-induced experimental autoimmune thyroiditis in human leucocyte antigen DR3 (DRB1*0301) transgenic class II-knock-out non-obese diabetic mice

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Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to autoimmune disease development. Previously, we evaluated genetic factors in a humanized mouse model of Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT) by immunizing human leucocyte antigen DR3 (HLA-DR3) and HLA-DQ8 transgenic class II-knock-out non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice. DR3+ mice were susceptible to experimental autoimmune thyroiditis (EAT) induction by both mouse thyroglobulin (mTg) and human (h) Tg, while DQ8+ mice were weakly susceptible only to hTg. As one environmental factor associated with HT and tested in non-transgenic models is increased sodium iodide (NaI) intake, we examined the susceptibility of DR3+ and/or DQ8+ mice to NaI-induced disease. Mice were treated for 8 weeks with NaI in the drinking water. At 0·05% NaI, 23% of DR3+, 0% of DQ8+ and 20% of DR3+DQ8+ mice had thyroid destruction. No spleen cell proliferation to mTg was observed. Most mice had undetectable anti-mTg antibodies, but those with low antibody levels usually had thyroiditis. At 0·3% NaI, a higher percentage of DR3+ and DR3+DQ8+ mice developed destructive thyroiditis, but it was not statistically significant. However, when DR3+ mice had been depleted of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells prior to NaI treatment, destructive thyroiditis (68%) and serum anti-mTg antibodies were exacerbated further. The presence of DQ8 molecules does not alter the susceptibility of DR3+DQ8+ mice to NaI-induced thyroiditis, similar to earlier findings with mTg-induced EAT. Susceptibility of DR3+ mice to NaI-induced EAT, in both the presence and absence of regulatory T cells, demonstrates the usefulness of HLA class II transgenic mice in evaluating the roles of environmental factors and immune dysregulation in autoimmune thyroid disease.

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