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Free access

GS Seetharamaiah, S Kaithamana, RK Desai, and BS Prabhakar

Expression of large quantities of conformationally intact thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) is essential to understand the structure-function relationship of the receptor. We expressed three different constructs of full-length human TSHR in insect cells: (a) a TSHR cDNA lacking signal sequence (TSHR-ns), (b) a TSHR cDNA containing human TSHR signal sequence (TSHR-hs) and (c) a TSHR cDNA with baculovirus envelope protein encoded signal sequence gp-67 (TSHR-gp). No unique protein band, corresponding to any of these recombinant proteins, was visible upon Coomassie Blue staining after SDS-PAGE. However, Western blot using TSHR specific monoclonal antibody showed unique bands around 80, 100 and 100 kDa in TSHR-ns, TSHR-hs and TSHR-gp virus infected insect cells respectively. All three full-length TSHR proteins could neutralize the TSH binding inhibitory immunoglobulin (TBII) activity from sera of experimental animals. However, only glycosylated proteins (TSHR-hs and TSHR-gp) neutralized the TBII activity of sera from autoimmune thyroid patients, confirming the importance of glycosylation for patient autoantibody reactivity. Expression levels of full-length TSHR proteins were much lower than the levels of similarly produced corresponding ectodomains of TSHR proteins. Southern blot and Northern blot analyses showed that DNA and RNA levels in full-length TSHR virus infected insect cells were comparable to the levels found in cells infected with viruses encoding only the ectodomain of TSHR. These data suggest that full-length TSHR expression is very low and is regulated at the translational level.

Free access

R Núñez Miguel, J Sanders, D Y Chirgadze, J Furmaniak, and B Rees Smith

The TSH receptor (TSHR) ligands M22 (a thyroid stimulating human monoclonal antibody) and TSH, bind to the concave surface of the leucine rich repeats domain (LRD) of the TSHR and here, we show that M22 mimics closely the binding of TSH. We compared interactions produced by M22 with the TSHR in the M22–TSHR crystal structure (2.55 Å resolution) and produced by TSH with the TSHR in a TSH–TSHR comparative model. The crystal structure of the TSHR and a comparative model of TSH based on the crystal structure of FSH were used as components to build the TSH–TSHR model. This model was built based on the FSH–FSH receptor structure (2.9 Å) and then the structure of the TSHR in the model was replaced by the TSHR crystal structure. The analysis shows that M22 light chain mimics the TSHβ chain in its interaction with TSHR LRD, while M22 heavy chain mimics the interactions of the TSHα chain. The M22–TSHR complex contains a greater number of hydrogen bonds and salt bridges and fewer hydrophobic interactions than the TSH–TSHR complex, consistent with a higher M22 binding affinity. Furthermore, the surface area formed by TSHR residues N208, Q235, R255, and N256 has been identified as a candidate target region for small molecules which might selectively block binding of autoantibodies to the TSHR.

Free access

K Alexander Iwen, Rebecca Oelkrug, and Georg Brabant

Thyroid hormones (TH) are of central importance for thermogenesis, energy homeostasis and metabolism. Here, we will discuss these aspects by focussing on the physiological aspects of TH-dependent regulation in response to cold exposure and fasting, which will be compared to alterations in primary hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. In particular, we will summarise current knowledge on regional thyroid hormone status in the central nervous system (CNS) and in peripheral cells. In contrast to hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, where parallel changes are observed, local alterations in the CNS differ to peripheral compartments when induced by cold exposure or fasting. Cold exposure is associated with low hypothalamic TH concentrations but increased TH levels in the periphery. Fasting results in a reversed TH pattern. Primary hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism disrupt these fine-tuned adaptive mechanisms and both, the hypothalamus and the periphery, will have the same TH status. These important mechanisms need to be considered when discussing thyroid hormone replacement and other therapeutical interventions to modulate TH status.

Free access

Jennifer Miller-Gallacher, Paul Sanders, Stuart Young, Andrew Sullivan, Stuart Baker, Samuel C Reddington, Matthew Clue, Katarzyna Kabelis, Jill Clark, Jane Wilmot, Daniel Thomas, Monika Chlebowska, Francesca Cole, Emily Pearson, Emma Roberts, Matthew Holly, Michele Evans, Ricardo Núñez Miguel, Michael Powell, Jane Sanders, Jadwiga Furmaniak, and Bernard Rees Smith

The crystal structures of the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR) leucine-rich repeat domain (amino acids 22–260; TSHR260) in complex with a stimulating human monoclonal autoantibody (M22TM) and in complex with a blocking human autoantibody (K1-70™) have been solved. However, attempts to purify and crystallise free TSHR260, that is not bound to an autoantibody, have been unsuccessful due to the poor stability of free TSHR260. We now describe a TSHR260 mutant that has been stabilised by the introduction of six mutations (H63C, R112P, D143P, D151E, V169R and I253R) to form TSHR260-JMG55TM, which is approximately 900 times more thermostable than wild-type TSHR260. These six mutations did not affect the binding of human TSHR monoclonal autoantibodies or patient serum TSHR autoantibodies to the TSHR260. Furthermore, the response of full-length TSHR to stimulation by TSH or human TSHR monoclonal autoantibodies was not affected by the six mutations. Thermostable TSHR260-JMG55TM has been purified and crystallised without ligand and the structure solved at 2.83 Å resolution. This is the first reported structure of a glycoprotein hormone receptor crystallised without ligand. The unbound TSHR260-JMG55TM structure and the M22 and K1-70 bound TSHR260 structures are remarkably similar except for small changes in side chain conformations. This suggests that neither the mutations nor the binding of M22TM or K1-70TM change the rigid leucine-rich repeat domain structure of TSHR260. The solved TSHR260-JMG55TM structure provides a rationale as to why the six mutations have a thermostabilising effect and provides helpful guidelines for thermostabilisation strategies of other soluble protein domains.

Free access

Ricardo Núñez Miguel, Jane Sanders, Paul Sanders, Stuart Young, Jill Clark, Katarzyna Kabelis, Jane Wilmot, Michele Evans, Emma Roberts, Xiaoling Hu, Jadwiga Furmaniak, and Bernard Rees Smith

Binding of a new thyroid-stimulating human monoclonal autoantibody (MAb) K1–18 to the TSH receptor (TSHR) leucine-rich domain (LRD) was predicted using charge–charge interaction mapping based on unique complementarities between the TSHR in interactions with the thyroid-stimulating human MAb M22 or the thyroid-blocking human MAb K1–70. The interactions of K1–18 with the TSHR LRD were compared with the interactions in the crystal structures of the M22–TSHR LRD and K1–70–TSHR LRD complexes. Furthermore, the predicted position of K1–18 on the TSHR was validated by the effects of TSHR mutations on the stimulating activity of K1–18. A similar approach was adopted for predicting binding of a mouse thyroid-blocking MAb RSR-B2 to the TSHR. K1–18 is predicted to bind to the TSHR LRD in a similar way as TSH and M22. The binding analysis suggests that K1–18 light chain (LC) mimics binding of the TSH-α chain and the heavy chain (HC) mimics binding of the TSH-β chain. By contrast, M22 HC mimics the interactions of TSH-α while M22 LC mimics TSH-β in interactions with the TSHR. The observed interactions in the M22–TSHR LRD and K1–70–TSHR LRD complexes (crystal structures) with TSH–TSHR LRD (comparative model) and K1–18–TSHR LRD (predictive binding) suggest that K1–18 and M22 interactions with the receptor may reflect interaction of thyroid-stimulating autoantibodies in general. Furthermore, K1–70 and RSR-B2 interactions with the TSHR LRD may reflect binding of TSHR-blocking autoantibodies in general. Interactions involving the C-terminal part of the TSHR LRD may be important for receptor activation by autoantibodies.

Free access

KJ Starkey, A Janezic, G Jones, N Jordan, G Baker, and M Ludgate

The thyrotrophin receptor (TSHR) provides an autoantigenic link between the thyroid and orbit in Graves' (GD) and thyroid eye diseases (TED). We measured TSHR transcripts in different fat depots to determine whether TSHR expression levels are influenced by the autoimmune/inflammatory process and/or thyroid hormone status, using quantitative real-time PCR. Nine intact or fractionated adipose samples, from patients with GD and/or TED, were analysed ex vivo. Eight expressed the TSHR, at levels approaching the thyroid, and one was at the limit of detection. Thirteen/fifteen orbital and abdominal fat samples from patients free of GD and TED, measured ex vivo, were negative for TSHR transcripts and two were at the limit of detection. All preadipocyte samples induced to differentiate in vitro expressed the TSHR. To investigate the influence of thyroid hormone status on adipose TSHR expression, we induced hyper- and hypothyroidism in BALBc mice by administering tri-iodothyronine and propylthiouracil respectively. In euthyroid animals, whole fat samples were at the limit of detection and were not altered by thyroid hormone status. The results show that adipose TSHR expression ex vivo indicates adipogenesis in progress in vivo and is associated with the autoimmune/inflammatory process in GD and TED but is not restricted to the orbit or influenced by thyroid hormone status.

Free access

Maria D'Agostino, Marialuisa Sponziello, Cinzia Puppin, Marilena Celano, Valentina Maggisano, Federica Baldan, Marco Biffoni, Stefania Bulotta, Cosimo Durante, Sebastiano Filetti, Giuseppe Damante, and Diego Russo

The TSH receptor (TSHR) and sodium/iodide symporter (NIS) are key players in radioiodine-based treatment of differentiated thyroid cancers. While NIS (SLC5AS) expression is diminished/lost in most thyroid tumors, TSHR is usually preserved. To examine the mechanisms that regulate the expression of NIS and TSHR genes in thyroid tumor cells, we analyzed their expression after inhibition of ras–BRAF–MAPK and PI3K–Akt–mTOR pathways and the epigenetic control occurring at the gene promoter level in four human thyroid cancer cell lines. Quantitative real-time PCR was used to measure NIS and TSHR mRNA in thyroid cancer cell lines (TPC-1, BCPAP, WRO, and FTC-133). Western blotting was used to assess the levels of total and phosphorylated ERK and Akt. Chromatin immunoprecipitation was performed for investigating histone post-translational modifications of the TSHR and NIS genes. ERK and Akt inhibitors elicited different responses of the cells in terms of TSHR and NIS mRNA levels. Akt inhibition increased NIS transcript levels and reduced those of TSHR in FTC-133 cells but had no significant effects in BCPAP. ERK inhibition increased the expression of both genes in BCPAP cells but had no effects in FTC-133. Histone post-translational modifications observed in the basal state of the four cell lines as well as in BCPAP treated with ERK inhibitor and FTC-133 treated with Akt inhibitor show cell- and gene-specific differences. In conclusion, our data indicate that in thyroid cancer cells the expression of TSHR and NIS genes is differently controlled by multiple mechanisms, including epigenetic events elicited by major signaling pathways involved in thyroid tumorigenesis.

Free access

R Núñez Miguel, J Sanders, D Y Chirgadze, T L Blundell, J Furmaniak, and B Rees Smith

The crystal structures of the leucine-rich repeat domain (LRD) of the FSH receptor (FSHR) in complex with FSH and the TSH receptor (TSHR) LRD in complex with the thyroid-stimulating autoantibody (M22) provide opportunities to assess the molecular basis of the specificity of glycoprotein hormone–receptor binding. A comparative model of the TSH–TSHR complex was built using the two solved crystal structures and verified using studies on receptor affinity and activation. Analysis of the FSH–FSHR and TSH–TSHR complexes allowed identification of receptor residues that may be important in hormone-binding specificity. These residues are in leucine-rich repeats at the two ends of the FSHR and the TSHR LRD structures but not in their central repeats. Interactions in the interfaces are consistent with a higher FSH-binding affinity for the FSHR compared with the binding affinity of TSH for the TSHR. The higher binding affinity of porcine (p)TSH and bovine (b)TSH for human (h)TSHR compared with hTSH appears not to be dependent on interactions with the TSHR LRD as none of the residues that differ among hTSH, pTSH or bTSH interact with the LRD. This suggests that TSHs are likely to interact with other parts of the receptors in addition to the LRD with these non-LRD interactions being responsible for affinity differences. Analysis of interactions in the FSH–FSHR and TSH–TSHR complexes suggests that the α-chains of both hormones tend to be involved in the receptor activation process while the β-chains are more involved in defining binding specificity.

Restricted access

G. C. Huang, K. S. Collison, A. M. McGregor, and J. P. Banga


Graves' disease is an autoimmune thyroid disease characterized by the presence of pathogenic autoantibodies to the TSH receptor (TSH-R). By using polymerase chain reaction, the extracellular region of the human TSH-R cDNA has been amplified and used to prepare recombinant TSH-R (extracellular) protein fused with glutathione-S-transferase (GST). Purification of the recombinant TSH-R (extracellular)-GST fusion protein was achieved by preparative gel electrophoresis in SDS or by preparative isoelectric focusing in urea. Following removal of SDS by detergent exchange or urea by dialysis, the purified recombinant receptor preparations were assessed for binding to the hormone or to autoantibodies from Graves' disease patients. The purified recombinant receptor preparations fail to show any binding to the hormone or autoantibodies either by inhibition of binding assays or by immunoblotting. The results imply that the correct folding and/or post-translational modifications of the polypeptide chain which are not achieved in recombinant proteins produced in Escherichia coli may be important for the binding of the hormone or Graves' disease autoantibodies to the TSH-R. The recombinant receptor prepared in this manner will be useful for immunological and cellular investigations in patients with Graves' disease.

Free access

Christer M Bäck, Stefanie Stohr, Eva A M Schäfer, Heike Biebermann, Ingrid Boekhoff, Andreas Breit, Thomas Gudermann, and Thomas R H Büch

Metallothioneins (MTs) are cytoprotective proteins acting as scavengers of toxic metal ions or reactive oxygen species. MTs are upregulated in follicular thyroid carcinoma and are regarded as a marker of thyroid stress in Graves' disease. However, the mechanism of MT regulation in thyrocytes is still elusive. In other cellular systems, cAMP-, calcium-, or protein kinase C (PKC)-dependent signaling cascades have been shown to induce MT expression. Of note, all of these three pathways are activated following the stimulation of the TSH receptor (TSHR). Thus, we hypothesized that TSH represents a key regulator of MT expression in thyrocytes. In fact, TSHR stimulation induced expression of MT isoform 1X (MT1X) in human follicular carcinoma cells. In these cells, Induction of MT1X expression critically relied on intact Gq/11 signaling of the TSHR and was blocked by chelation of intracellular calcium and inhibition of PKC. TSHR-independent stimulation of cAMP formation by treating cells with forskolin also led to an upregulation of MT1X, which was completely dependent on PKA. However, inhibition of PKA did not affect the regulation of MT1X by TSH. As in follicular thyroid carcinoma cells, TSH also induced MT1 protein in primary human thyrocytes, which was PKC dependent as well. In summary, these findings indicate that TSH stimulation induces MT1X expression via Gq/11 and PKC, whereas cAMP–PKA signaling does not play a predominant role. To date, little has been known regarding cAMP-independent effects of TSHR signaling. Our findings extend the knowledge about the PKC-mediated functions of the TSHR.