The exact role of retrobulbar fibroblasts in the immunopathogenesis of endocrine ophthalmopathy still remains to be elucidated. To evaluate the in vitro influence of humoral immunity on retrobulbar fibroblasts, the effects of immunoglobulin G as well as of the sera of 50 euthyroid patients with endocrine ophthalmopathy and 30 controls on both porcine and human (patients' and controls') retrobulbar fibroblasts were measured by means of several assays: a colorimetric test involving a heterocyclic chemical, a tetrazolium bromide, was applied to quantify the activity of mitochondrial dehydrogenases; the incorporation of 3H-thymidine was determined as a sensitive parameter for cell proliferation, and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was to reveal specific binding of antibodies to the cells. There was consistently no significant difference between patients' (untreated or treated) and controls' IgG to bind to, to activate or to stimulate the proliferation of porcine and human (patients and controls) retrobulbar fibroblasts. The effects of patients' heat-inactivated and non-inactivated sera were indistinguishable from those of the controls. Incubation of autologous sera, however, led to an activation of retrobulbar fibroblasts which was both higher than the median caused by the patients' group and that engendered by incubation of autologous IgG. Yet, a significant role that humoral immunity might play directly on retrobulbar fibroblasts could not be detected in the experiments conducted in this study.
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