Hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis

Tania M. Ortiga-Carvalho, Maria I. Chiamolera, Carmen C. Pazos-Moura, Fredric E. Wondisford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


The hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis determines the set point of thyroid hormone (TH) production. Hypothalamic thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) stimulates the synthesis and secretion of pituitary thyrotropin (thyroid-stimulating hormone, TSH), which acts at the thyroid to stimulate all steps of TH biosynthesis and secretion. The THs thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) control the secretion of TRH and TSH by negative feedback to maintain physiological levels of the main hormones of the HPT axis. Reduction of circulating TH levels due to primary thyroid failure results in increased TRH and TSH production, whereas the opposite occurs when circulating THs are in excess. Other neural, humoral, and local factors modulate the HPT axis and, in specific situations, determine alterations in the physiological function of the axis. The roles of THs are vital to nervous system development, linear growth, energetic metabolism, and thermogenesis. THs also regulate the hepatic metabolism of nutrients, fluid balance and the cardiovascular system. In cells, TH actions are mediated mainly by nuclear TH receptors (210), which modify gene expression. T3 is the preferred ligand of THR, whereas T4, the serum concentration of which is 100-fold higher than that of T3, undergoes extra-thyroidal conversion to T3. This conversion is catalyzed by 5'-deiodinases (D1 and D2), which are TH-activating enzymes. T4 can also be inactivated by conversion to reverse T3, which has very low affinity for THR, by 5-deiodinase (D3). The regulation of deiodinases, particularly D2, and TH transporters at the cell membrane control T3 availability, which is fundamental for TH action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1387-1428
Number of pages42
JournalComprehensive Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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