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J Invest Dermatol. 2002 Dec;119(6):1449-55.

Expression of hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis related genes in the human skin.

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  • 1Departments of Pathology, and Surgery, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN 38163, USA.


The skin is commonly affected in thyroid diseases, but the mechanism for this association is still unclear. As the skin expresses numerous neuroendocrine elements, we tested the additional cutaneous expression of mediators operating in the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis. We found significant expression of the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor mRNA in cultured keratinocytes, epidermal melanocytes, and melanoma cells. The presence of thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor was confirmed by northern analyses and the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor was found to be functionally active in cyclic adenosine monophosphate signal assays. Thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor expressing cells also expressed the sodium iodide symporter and thyroglobulin genes. We also found expression of deiodinases 2 and 3 (mainly deiodinase 2) in whole skin biopsy specimens, and in the majority of epidermal and dermal cells by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction followed by sequencing of the amplified gene segments. There was selective expression of the gene for thyroid-stimulating hormone beta; detection of the thyroid-releasing hormone gene was minimal and thyroid-releasing hormone receptor mRNA was not detected in most of the samples. Expression of functional thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor in the skin may have significant physiologic and pathologic consequences, particularly in autoimmune conditions associated with production of stimulating antibodies against the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor. We conclude that the expanding list of neuroendocrine elements expressed in the skin supports a strong role for this system in cutaneous biology.

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