Document Type


Publication Date

March 2006


Many nuclear hormones have physiological effects that are too rapid to be explained by changes in gene expression and are often attributed to unidentified or novel G protein-coupled receptors. Thyroid hormone is essential for normal human brain development, but the molecular mechanisms responsible for its effects remain to be identified. Here, we present direct molecular evidence for potassium channel stimulation in a rat pituitary cell line (GH(4)C(1)) by a nuclear receptor for thyroid hormone, TRbeta, acting rapidly at the plasma membrane through phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) to slow the deactivation of KCNH2 channels already in the membrane. Signaling was disrupted by heterologous expression of TRbeta receptors with mutations in the ligand-binding domain that are associated with neurological disorders in humans, but not by mutations that disrupt DNA binding. More importantly, PI3K-dependent signaling was reconstituted in cell-free patches of membrane from CHO cells by heterologous expression of human KCNH2 channels and TRbeta, but not TRalpha, receptors. TRbeta signaling through PI3K provides a molecular explanation for the essential role of thyroid hormone in human brain development and adult lipid metabolism.

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