A link between sex hormones and B-cell activating factor (BAFF), a crucial immunoregulator of autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD), may exist. The study aimed to elucidate the role of estrogen (E2) in regulating BAFF in Graves' disease (GD). In clinical samples, serum BAFF levels were higher in women than in men in both the GD and control groups. serum BAFF levels were associated with thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor antibody levels and thyroid function only in women and not in men. BAFF transcripts in peripheral blood mononuclear cells were higher in women with GD than those in the control group. Among GD patients with the AA genotype of rs2893321, women had higher BAFF transcripts and protein levels than men. In the progression of a spontaneous autoimmune thyroiditis (SAT) murine model, NOD.H-2h4, serum free thyroxine and BAFF levels were higher in female than in male mice. Moreover, exogenous E2 treatment increased serum BAFF levels in male SAT mice. Meanwhile, female SAT mice exhibited higher thyroid BAFF transcripts levels than either the E2-treated or untreated male SAT mouse groups. Our results showed that E2 might be implicated in modulating BAFF expression, and support a possible mechanism for the higher incidence of AITD in women.
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