, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 141-150,
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Cell-Type-Specific Expression of STAT Transcription Factors in Tissue Samples from Patients with Lymphocytic Thyroiditis


Expression of cytokine-regulated signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) proteins was histochemically assessed in patients diagnosed as having Hashimoto's disease or focal lymphocytic thyroiditis (n = 10). All surgical specimens showed histological features of lymphocytic thyroiditis, including a diffuse infiltration with mononuclear cells and an incomplete loss of thyroid follicles, resulting in the destruction of glandular tissue architecture. Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated differential expression patterns of the various members of the STAT transcription factors examined, indicating that each member of this conserved protein family has its distinct functions in the development of the disease. Using an antibody that specifically recognized the phosphorylated tyrosine residue in position 701, we detected activated STAT1 dimers in numerous germinal macrophages and infiltrating lymphocytes as well as in oncocytes. In contrast, STAT3 expression was restricted to epithelial cells and showed a clear colocalization with the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2. Moreover, expression of phospho-STAT3 was associated with low levels of stromal fibrosis, suggesting that STAT3 serves as a protective factor in the remodeling of the inflamed thyroid gland. Phospho-STAT5 immunoreactivity was detected in numerous infiltrating cells of hematopoietic origin and, additionally, in hyperplastic follicular epithelia. This tissue distribution demonstrated that activated STAT5 molecules participate in both lymphocytopoiesis and possibly also in the buildup of regenerating thyroid follicles. Taken together, the cell-type-specific expression patterns of STAT proteins in human lymphocytic thyroiditis reflect their distinct and partially antagonistic roles in orchestrating the balance between degenerating and regenerating processes within a changing cytokine environment.