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  • Author: A. F. M. Moorman x
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I Stoykov, B Zandieh-Doulabi, A F M Moorman, V Christoffels, W M Wiersinga and O Bakker

Nuclear thyroid hormone (T3) receptors (TR) play a critical role in mediating the effects of T3 on development, differentiation and normal physiology of many organs. The heart is a major target organ of T3, and recent studies in knockout mice demonstrated distinct effects of the different TR isoforms on cardiac function, but the specific actions of TR isoforms and their specific localization in the heart remain unclear. We therefore studied the expression of TRα1, TRα2 and TRβ1 isoforms in the mouse heart at different stages of development, using monoclonal antibodies against TRα1, TRα2 and TRβ1. In order to identify distinct components of the embryonic heart, in situ hybridization for cardiac-specific markers was used with the expression pattern of sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium-ATPase 2a as a marker of myocardial structures, while the pattern of expression of connexin40 was used to indicate the developing chamber myocardium and peripheral ventricular conduction system. Here we show that in the ventricles of the adult heart the TRβ1 isoform is confined to the cells that form the peripheral ventricular conduction system. TRα1, on the other hand, is present in working myocardium as well as in the peripheral ventricular conduction system. In the atria and in the proximal conduction system (sinoatrial node, atrio-ventricular node), TRα1 and TRβ1 isoforms are co-expressed. We also found the heterogeneous expression of the TRα1, TRα2 and TRβ1 isoforms in the developing mouse heart, which, in the case of the TRβ1 isoform, gradually revealed a dynamic expression pattern. It was present in all cardiomyocytes at the early stages of cardiogenesis, but from embryonic day 11.5 and into adulthood, TRβ1 demonstrated a gradual confinement to the peripheral ventricular conduction system (PVCS), suggesting a specific role of this isoform in the formation of PVCS. Detailed knowledge of the distribution of TRα1 and TRβ1 in the heart is of importance for understanding not only their mechanism of action in the heart but also the design and (clinical) use of TR isoform-specific agonists and antagonists.

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E. D. Schmidt, E. D. L. Schmidt, R. van der Gaag, R. Ganpat, L. Broersma, P. A. J. de Boer, A. F. M. Moorman, W. H. Lamers, W. M. Wiersinga and L. Koornneef


The correlation between the occurrence of Graves' ophthalmopathy and Graves' hyperthyroidism may indicate a role for tri-iodothyronine (T3) hormone in the pathogenesis of Graves' ophthalmopathy. In Graves' ophthalmopathy the recti eye muscles are greatly enlarged whereas skeletal muscles seem unaffected. The distribution of the nuclear T3 receptor was studied in normal human and rat eye and skeletal muscles with immunohistochemistry using mouse (monoclonal) antibodies, and by in-situ hybridization for the detection of mRNA encoding the T3-receptor protein.

Nuclear staining with T3-receptor antibodies was found in all types of tissues studied. Cytoplasmic staining occurred predominantly in the muscle fibres of the orbital layer of the eye muscles and was generally absent or very low in skeletal muscle fibres and hepatocytes. Immunostaining could be inhibited by preabsorbing the antibodies with bacterially expressed T3-receptor protein, implying specificity. The presence of nuclear and cytoplasmic hormonefree T3 receptor sites was indicated after preincubation of sections with T3 hormone: T3-receptor immunostaining decreased and T3-hormone staining increased. In-situ hybridization clearly revealed the presence of α-1 and β-1 forms of the T3-receptor mRNA in liver, skeletal muscles, and orbital and intermediate layers of the eye muscles.

The data demonstrate the presence of T3 hormone-receptor molecules in the extraocular and skeletal muscles. The different susceptibilities of these muscles to Graves' hyperthyroidism may relate to the quantitative differences in T3 hormone-receptor distribution.

Journal of Endocrinology (1992) 133, 67–74