The syndrome of resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH) is an inherited disorder involving a mutation of the thyroid hormone receptor (TR) gene. Mutant (m) TR inhibits wild-type (wt) TR functions in a dominant negative manner, and this dominant negative effect (DNE) is a crucial factor in RTH pathogenesis. The molecular mechanism of the DNE is still unclear, although several possibilities (including competition between wt- and mTRs at the T(3) response element (TRE), sequestration of TR-associated protein(s) and titration out of functional TR) have been considered. Here we report that the DNE of mTRs is strongly correlated with their binding avidity for the retinoid X receptor (RXR), and especially for corepressor SMRT (silencing mediator for retinoid and thyroid hormone receptor), but not for the nuclear receptor corepressor, NCoR. The DNE of six natural TRs and four artificially constructed mTRs was assayed using a TR reporter gene containing TRE-DR4 (DR=direct repeat), TRE-pal (pal=palindrome) or TRE-lap (lap=inverted palindrome) in CV1 cells treated with 10 nM T(3). Of the mTRs examined, F451X (with a carboxy-terminal 11-amino-acid truncation) identified in a patient with RTH exhibited the strongest DNE on all TREs. The binding affinities between mTRs and corepressors SMRT or NCoR were quantified using a two-hybrid interference assay system consisting of VP16-TR(LBD) (LBD=ligand binding domain) and Gal4(DBD)-SMRT (DBD=DNA binding domain), or Gal4(DBD)-NCoR respectively, together with the Gal4 reporter gene. In this assay, VP16-TR(LBD) and Gal4(DBD)-SMRT (or Gal4 (DBD)-NCoR) interact with each other and trans-activate the Gal4 reporter gene. When an equal amount of mTR is coexpressed, it reduces the transcriptional activity of the reporter gene, depending on its binding avidity for a corepressor. A very strong correlation was observed between the SMRT-binding activity and the potency of the DNE among six natural mTRs and also among all mTRs, including four artificially constructed ones. The relationship between NCoR and DNE, however, was not significant. When we assayed the binding avidity of mTRs for RXR by using a two-hybrid assay system consisting of Gal4(DBD)-RXR(LBD) and VP16-TR(LBD), a significant correlation between DNE and binding avidity for the RXR was also observed. These results suggest that a corepressor plays an important role in DNE pathogenesis.