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Endocrinology. 1992 Jul;131(1):82-8.

The role of the oligosaccharide chains of thyrotropin alpha- and beta-subunits in hormone action.

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  • 1Molecular, Cellular, and Nutritional Endocrinology Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


TSH, a dimeric glycoprotein hormone, has two N-linked complex-type oligosaccharide chains on the alpha-subunit and one on the beta-subunit. The oligosaccharide chains of TSH are important for the expression of hormonal activity, but the contribution of those on each of the subunits to the activity is not clear. In the current study we have determined the relative importance of the oligosaccharide chains of TSH subunits using a recently reported method of enzymatic deglycosylation. The alpha- and beta-subunits of bovine TSH were deglycosylated with endoglycosidase-F and recombined to obtain differentially deglycosylated TSH. The derivatives showed no differences in their receptor-binding activities. The in vitro bioactivity of these derivatives was assessed by measuring adenylyl cyclase activity in bovine thyroid membranes and stimulation of cAMP production and growth in FRTL-5 cells. In the adenylyl cyclase assay, deglycosylation of the alpha-subunit alone had a more profound effect on the activity [maximal stimulatory activity (Vmax), 13% that of alpha.beta) than when the beta-subunit alone was deglycosylated (Vmax, 50% that of alpha.beta). In the FRTL-5 assays, removal of carbohydrate from TSH alpha, but not the beta-subunit, caused a 2- to 3-fold increase in the concentration required for half-maximal stimulation, with minimal change in the apparent Vmax. The adenylyl cyclase assay in bovine membranes was more sensitive to carbohydrate removal than the assays of rat FRTL-5 cells, in which the derivatives with lower activity were able to stimulate cAMP and growth to near-maximal levels, albeit at 3-fold higher concentrations. These results indicate that the carbohydrate chains in both subunits of TSH, particularly those in the alpha-subunit, are important in hormone action. In contrast to previous reports, our study shows that the beta-subunit plays a role in signal transduction.

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