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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jul 28;106(30):12471-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904506106. Epub 2009 Jul 10.

Small-molecule agonists for the thyrotropin receptor stimulate thyroid function in human thyrocytes and mice.

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Clinical Endocrinology Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Seven-transmembrane-spanning receptors (7TMRs) are prominent drug targets. However, small-molecule ligands for 7-transmembrane-spanning receptors for which the natural ligands are large, heterodimeric glycoprotein hormones, like thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH; thyrotropin), have only recently been reported, and none are approved for human use. We have used quantitative high-throughput screening to identify a small-molecule TSH receptor (TSHR) agonist that was modified to produce a second agonist with increased potency. We show that these agonists are highly selective for human TSHR versus other glycoprotein hormone receptors and interact with the receptor's serpentine domain. A binding pocket within the transmembrane domain was defined by docking into a TSHR homology model and was supported by site-directed mutagenesis. In primary cultures of human thyrocytes, both TSH and the agonists increase mRNA levels for thyroglobulin, thyroperoxidase, sodium iodide symporter, and deiodinase type 2, and deiodinase type 2 enzyme activity. Moreover, oral administration of the agonist stimulated thyroid function in mice, resulting in increased serum thyroxine and thyroidal radioiodide uptake. Thus, we discovered a small molecule that activates human TSHR in vitro, is orally active in mice, and could be a lead for development of drugs to use in place of recombinant human TSH in patients with thyroid cancer.

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