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J Trojan, M Theodoropoulou, KH Usadel, GK Stalla and L Schaaf

Enhanced sialylation of thyrotropin (TSH) prolongs its metabolic clearance rate and thus increases the hormone's in vivo bioactivity. This has been shown for hypothyroid rats and for recombinant human TSH, but there are few data on the sialylation of human serum TSH. The aim of this work was to further study sialylated human serum TSH, its precursors bearing terminal galactose residues, and the role of pharmacological doses of thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) on their secretion under different degrees of primary hypothyroidism. We analyzed serum TSH in patients with subclinical (n = 9) and overt primary hypothyroidism (n = 13) compared with euthyroid individuals (n = 12) and human standard pituitary TSH (IRP 80/558). Blood was drawn before and 30 min after intravenous administration of 200 micrograms TRH, and TSH was purified by immunoaffinity concentration. The content of sialylated (sialo-) TSH and isoforms bearing terminal galactose (Gal-TSH, asialo-Gal-TSH) was measured by Ricinus communis (RCA 120) affinity chromatography in combination with enzymatic cleavage of sialic acid residues. TSH immunoreactivity was measured by an automated second generation TSH immunoassay. Pituitary TSH contained 16.5 +/- 0.8% Gal-TSH. In euthyroid individuals the proportion of Gal-TSH was 14.6 +/- 1.9%, whereas TSH in patients with subclinical and overt primary hypothyroidism contained 23.9 +/- 3.5% (P < 0.05 vs euthyroid individuals) and 21.1 +/- 1.7% Gal-TSH respectively. The mean ratio of asialo-Gal TSH was 23.8 +/- 0.6% for pituitary TSH, 35.7 +/- 4.2% in euthyroid individuals, 48.0 +/- 3.3% in patients with subclinical, and 61.5 +/- 3.8% (P < 0.001 vs euthyroid individuals) in patients with overt primary hypothyroidism. For pituitary TSH the calculated proportion of sialo-TSH was 6.5 +/- 0.2%, for euthyroid individuals 20.3 +/- 2.8%, for patients with subclinical hypothyroidism 24.1 +/- 3.0%, and for patients with overt primary hypothyroidism 40.7 +/- 3.0% (P < 0.001 vs euthyroid individuals). The proportions of Gal-TSH, asialo-Gal-TSH, and sialo-TSH did not differ significantly before and after TRH administration in the individuals studied. Our data show that patients with subclinical and overt primary hypothyroidism have a markedly increased proportion of serum TSH isoforms bearing terminal galactose and sialic acid residues, which may represent a mechanism for the further stimulation of thyroid function. Pharmacological doses of TRH cause an increased quantity of TSH to be released, but do not significantly alter the proportion of sialylated or terminally galactosylated TSH isoforms.

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L Schaaf, J Trojan, T E Helton, K H Usadel and J A Magner


The aims of the present study were to determine the influence of brief subclinical hypothyroidism on the isoforms of serum thyrotropin (TSH) and to examine the net charge of TSH in different metabolic states. Sera were obtained from euthyroid subjects (n=7) and from patients with subclinical hypothyroidism (n=8) before and 30 min after the intravenous administration of 200 μg thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). The TSH from human pituitary extracts (IRP 68/38), basal and TRH-stimulated serum TSH was immunoconcentrated and further analysed by isoelectric focusing (IEF) and lentil lectin affinity chromatography. TSH immunoreactivity was determined in each specimen or fraction with an automated highly sensitive chemiluminometric TSH assay. We found that basal TSH in subclinical hypothyroidism, and TRH-released TSH in euthyroidism and in subclinical hypothyroidism is distributed in a similar neutral to acidic pattern, which significantly differs from the more alkaline to neutral isoform pattern of intrapituitary TSH (P<0·05). IEF analysis of pituitary standard TSH revealed 3 major peaks (pI values 7·5; 6·6; 5·8) whereas in most euthyroid or subclinically hypothyroid subjects 5 peaks were found. Lentil lectin affinity chromatography revealed that TRH-released TSH in euthyroid subjects has more core fucose residues than TSH from patients with subclinical hypothyroidism (64·6 ±6·7 vs 12·5 ±2·7%, P<0·0001).

Thus pituitary standard TSH seems to be less mature material than circulating TSH. Perhaps no alteration in the IEF pattern of TSH was detected during early hypothyroidism because sialylation of TSH was increasing as sulfatation was decreasing. Nevertheless, a change in the core fucose content of TSH was detectable by lentil analysis.

Journal of Endocrinology (1995) 144, 561–567

Free access

L Schaaf, M Theodoropoulou, A Gregori, A Leiprecht, J Trojan, J Klostermeier and GK Stalla

Thyrotropin (TSH) is secreted not as one distinct hormone, but rather as a group of isohormones which differ in their oligosaccharide composition. Although the mechanisms regulating TSH glycosylation are not fully understood, there is strong evidence that TRH plays an important role. The aim of our study was to determine the dynamic influence of TRH on TSH microheterogeneity. Sera were obtained from euthyroid volunteers (n=20) before and 30, 60, 120, 180 and 240 min after intravenous, nasal and oral administration of TRH in three independent runs (randomized order, at a time-interval of 3 weeks between each run). TSH was immuno-concentrated and analysed by isoelectric focusing (IEF) and lentil lectin affinity chromatography. TSH immunoreactivity was measured by an automated second-generation TSH immunoassay. Overall, serum TSH concentrations reached maximal values 30 min after intravenous, 60 min after nasal and 180 min after oral TRH stimulation. IEF analysis revealed 63.3+/-3.3% of pituitary standard TSH (IRP 80/558) in the neutral pH range (8>pH>6). In contrast, 30 min after TRH stimulation 80.8+/-3.7% (P<0.001) and 60 min after TRH stimulation 44.9+/-2.2% (P<0.001) of the TSH of euthyroid probands were found in this pH range, whereas 180 min after TRH stimulation 58.4+/-2.3% (P<0.001) were detected in the acidic pH range (pH<6). This shift of TSH composition in euthyroidism after TRH stimulation was confirmed by lentil lectin analysis of TSH: core-fucose content of euthyroid TSH was 73.4+/-3.8% 30 min and 22.9+/-3.2% 120 min after TRH stimulation in contrast to basal (53.3+/-1.8%; P<0.001) and pituitary standard (IRP 80/558) TSH (63.0+/-0.9%; P<0.001). In conclusion, in euthyroidism, TRH stimulation time-dependently changes the distribution pattern of the TSH isoforms from an alkaline and neutral to a more acidic one. This corresponds to the secretion of isohormones with altered bioactivity which could influence the fine-tuning of thyroid function.