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Am J Med. 1990 Jun;88(6):626-30.

Biochemical basis of thyroid hormone action in the heart.

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Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego.


Thyroid hormone-induced changes in cardiac function have been recognized for over 150 years; however, the biochemical basis of triiodothyronine (T3) action in the heart has been intensely investigated only during the last two decades. T3-induced changes in cardiac function can result from direct or indirect T3 effects. Direct T3 effects result from T3 action in the heart itself and are mediated by nuclear or extranuclear mechanisms. Extranuclear T3 effects, which occur independent of nuclear T3 receptor binding and increases in protein synthesis, influence primarily the transport of amino acids, sugars, and calcium across the cell membrane. Nuclear T3 effects are mediated by the binding of T3 to specific nuclear receptor proteins, which results in increased transcription of T3-responsive cardiac genes. The T3 receptor is a member of the ligand-activated transcription factor family and is encoded by cellular erythroblastosis A (c-erb A) genes. The c-erb A protein is the cellular homologue of the viral erythroblastosis A (v-erb A) protein, which causes red cell leukemia in chickens. Currently, three T3-binding isoforms of the c-erb protein and two non-T3-binding nuclear proteins that exert positive and negative effects on T3-responsive cardiac genes have been identified. T3 increases the heart transcription of the myosin heavy chain (MHC) alpha gene and decreases the transcription of the MHC beta gene, leading to an increase of myosin V1 and a decrease in myosin V3 isoenzymes. Myosin V1, which is composed of two MHC alpha, has a higher myosin ATPase activity than myosin V3, which contains two MHC beta. The globular head of myosin V1, with its higher ATPase activity, leads to a more rapid movement of the globular head of myosin along the thin filament, resulting in an increased velocity of contraction. T3 also leads to an increase in the speed of diastolic relaxation, which is caused by the more efficient pumping of the calcium ATPase of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR). This T3 effect results from T3-induced increases in the level of the mRNA coding for the SR calcium ATPase protein, leading to an increased number of calcium ATPase pump units in the SR. Overall, thyroid hormone leads to an increase in ATP consumption in the heart. In addition, less chemical energy of ATP is used for contractile purposes and more of it goes toward heat production, which causes a decreased efficiency of the contractile process in the hyperthyroid heart.

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