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  • Author: B Bergner x
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HP Holzapfel, B Bergner, P Wonerow and R Paschke

OBJECTIVE: Constitutively activating mutations of the thyrotrophin receptor (TSHR) are the main molecular cause of hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules (HTNs). The G protein coupling is an important and critical step in the TSHR signalling which mainly includes G(alpha)(s), G(alpha)(i) and G(alpha)(q)/11 proteins. DESIGN: We investigated the in vitro consequences of overexpressing G(alpha) proteins on signalling of the wild-type (WT) or mutated TSHR. Moreover, we investigated whether changes in G(alpha) protein expression are pathophysiologically relevant in HTNs or cold thyroid nodules (CTNs). METHODS: Wild-type TSH receptor and mutated TSH receptors were coexpressed with G(alpha)(s), G(alpha)(i) or G(alpha)(q)/11, and cAMP and inositol phosphate (IP) production was measured after stimulation with TSH. The expression of G(alpha)(s), G(alpha)(i) and G(alpha)(q)/11 proteins was examined by Western blotting in 28 HTNs and 14 CTNs. RESULTS: Coexpression of G(alpha)(s) with the WT TSH receptor in COS 7 cells significantly increased the basal and TSH-stimulated cAMP accumulation while coexpression of the G(alpha)(q) or G(alpha)11 protein significantly increased the production of cAMP and inositol triphosphate (IP(3)). The coexpression of the TSH receptor mutants (I486F, DEL613-621), known to couple constitutively to G(alpha)(s) and G(alpha)(q) with G(alpha)(s) and G(alpha)(q)/11, significantly increased the basal and stimulated cAMP and IP(3) accumulation. Coexpression of the TSH receptor mutant V556F with G(alpha)(s) only increased the basal and stimulated cAMP production while its coexpression with G(alpha)(q)/11 increased the basal and stimulated IP(3) signalling. The expression of G(alpha)(s) protein subunits determined by Western blotting was significantly decreased in 14 HTNs with a constitutively activating TSH receptor mutation in comparison with the corresponding surrounding tissue, while in 14 HTNs without TSH receptor or G(alpha)(s) protein mutation and in 14 CTNs the expression of G(alpha)(s) protein was not different compared with the surrounding tissue. The expression of G(alpha)(i) and G(alpha)(q)/11 proteins in HTNs or CTNs was not significantly different compared with the surrounding tissue. CONCLUSIONS: The reduced expression of G(alpha)(s) protein subunits in HTNs with TSHR mutations could act as a feedback mechanism to desensitise the chronically stimulated cAMP cascade. As G(alpha) protein expression was not significantly increased in the majority of CTNs and HTNs an influence of G(alpha) overexpression on TSH signalling could be excluded in these nodules.