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EMBO J. 1999 Feb 1;18(3):623-31.

Different functions for the thyroid hormone receptors TRalpha and TRbeta in the control of thyroid hormone production and post-natal development.

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CNRS UMR 49-INRA LA 913, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 allée d'Italie, 69364 Lyon, France.


The biological activities of thyroid hormones are thought to be mediated by receptors generated by the TRalpha and TRbeta loci. The existence of several receptor isoforms suggests that different functions are mediated by specific isoforms and raises the possibility of functional redundancies. We have inactivated both TRalpha and TRbeta genes by homologous recombination in the mouse and compared the phenotypes of wild-type, and single and double mutant mice. We show by this method that the TRbeta receptors are the most potent regulators of the production of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). However, in the absence of TRbeta, the products of the TRalpha gene can fulfill this function as, in the absence of any receptors, TSH and thyroid hormone concentrations reach very high levels. We also show that TRbeta, in contrast to TRalpha, is dispensable for the normal development of bone and intestine. In bone, the disruption of both TRalpha and TRbeta genes does not modify the maturation delay observed in TRalpha -/- mice. In the ileum, the absence of any receptor results in a much more severe impairment than that observed in TRalpha -/- animals. We conclude that each of the two families of proteins mediate specific functions of triiodothyronin (T3), and that redundancy is only partial and concerns a limited number of functions.

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