We have used two clonotypically distinct thyroglobulin (Tg)-specific, I-Ak restricted monoclonal T cell populations to investigate the role of thyroid peroxidase-catalyzed iodination in Tg recognition by autoreactive T cells. The results showed that these T cells could recognize Tg only it it was sufficiently iodinated. Unlike normal mouse Tg, noniodinated mouse Tg was unable to induce significant thyroid lesions but could trigger the production of Tg autoantibodies. In these experiments, the importance of T cell recognition of iodination-related epitopes was emphasized by the inability of serum antibodies to distinguish Tg on the basis of iodine content, whether they were induced with normal or noniodinated Tg. Therefore, thyroid peroxidase-dependent modification of Tg would appear to be central to its recognition by autoreactive T cells and hence its capacity to induce autoimmune thyroid lesions.

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