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Ria Adriaanse, Johannes A Romijn, Erik Endert and Wilmar M Wiersinga

The nocturnal TSH surge was studied in controls, in 34 patients with hypothalamic/pituitary disease and in 21 patients with primary hypothyroidism. It was absent in 5/12 hypothyroid patients and in 5/22 euthyroid patients with hypothalamic/pituitary disease (42% vs 23%. NS). Central hypothyroidism relative to euthyroidism was associated with a lower absolute (0.3±0.4 vs 0.9±1.0 mU/l, p<0.05) and relative (24±31 vs 63±51%, p<0.05) nocturnal rise in TSH. In primary hypothyroidism, the nocturnal TSH surge was absent in eight often patients with overt, in one of five patients with mild and in none of six patients with subclinical hypothyroidism. The relative nocturnal rise in TSH was normal in mild (54±33%) and subclinical (92±69%), but decreased in overt hypothyroidism (2±10%). Plasma T4 was positively and 09.00 plasma TSH negatively related to the relative nocturnal TSH surge in primary hypothyroidism, but not in central lesions. In both conditions, however, a positive relationship was observed between the relative nocturnal TSH surge and the relative increase of TSH to TRH. In conclusion: (a) The nocturnal TSH surge is usually absent in overt hypothyroidism but present in mild primary hypothyroidism and equivocal in central hypothyroidism. This limits its usefulness as an adjunct in the diagnosis of central hypothyroidism. (b) The magnitude of the nocturnal TSH surge in patients with hypothalamic/pituitary disease or primary hypothyroidism is directly related to the TSH response to TRH, and thus appears to be determined by the directly releasable TSH pool of the pituitary.

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Ria Adriaanse, Georg Brabant, Erik Endert, Frederique J Bemelman and Wilmar M Wiersinga

Adriaanse R, Brabant G, Endert E, Bemelman FJ, Wiersinga WM. Pulsatile thyrotropin and prolactin secretion in a patient with mixed thyrotropin- and prolactin-secreting pituitary adenoma. Eur J Endocrinol 1994;130:113–20. ISSN 0804–4643

The circadian and pulsatile thyrotropin (TSH) and prolactin (PRL) release was investigated in a patient with slight hyperthyroidism due to a mixed TSH- and PRL-secreting pituitary adenoma. Blood was withdrawn every 10 min for 24 h (before and after medical treatment); pulse characteristics were analyzed by Desade and Cluster programs (values as mean±sd). The inappropriately high mean 24-h TSH concentration of 3.55 ±0.31 mU/l was associated with a higher mean 24-h TSH pulse amplitude but unaltered mean 24-h TSH pulse frequency relative to healthy controls. The nocturnal TSH surge (absolute surge 0.5 mU/l, relative surge 16%) was low, related to a loss of the usual nocturnal increase of TSH pulse amplitude and TSH pulse frequency. Chronic treatment with octreotide resulted in a modest clinical and biochemical improvement of the hyperthyroid state; addition of bromocriptine at a later stage had no further beneficial effect. At the end of the follow-up period the mean 24-h TSH paradoxically had increased to 5.33 ±0.81 mU/l. The nocturnal TSH surge also increased (absolute surge 1.9 mU/l, relative surge 42%), but circadian changes in TSH pulsatility remained absent. In the untreated period the increased mean 24-h PRL concentration of 234 ± 24 μg/l was associated with an increased mean 24-h PRL amplitude, whereas the 24-h PRL pulse frequency (N = 4) was lower relative to controls. No circadian PRL rhythm was present. After octreotide and bromocriptine treatment the mean 24-h PRL concentration and mean 24-h PRL pulse amplitude were unchanged, but a clear nocturnal increase of PRL now was observed. Analysis of the temporal coupling between TSH and PRL release by bivariate autoregressive modeling revealed significant cross-correlations in all three periods investigated (coefficients in the range 0.34–0.76, median 0.52; p<0.01) between TSH and PRL concentrations with a lag time of 10–20 min. We conclude that pulsatile TSH and PRL release in this mixed TSH- and PRL-secreting pituitary adenoma was autonomous in nature. The observed dampening of the nocturnal increase of TSH and PRL is putatively related to a lack of TRH receptors in these tumors. The observed co-secretion of TSH and PRL suggests synthesis of both hormones by the same cell.

R Adriaanse, Department of Endocrinology F5-171, Academic Medical Center, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Xander G Vos, Erik Endert, Jan G P Tijssen and Wilmar M Wiersinga

Background

Genetic polymorphisms and environmental factors are both involved in the pathogenesis of Graves' disease, but their interaction and effect on Graves' phenotypes have scarcely been investigated.

Objective

To test the hypothesis that subjects with susceptibility genotypes develop more severe Graves' hyperthyroidism at a younger age and after less exposure to environmental factors, with attention to gender differences.

Study design

A prospective observational multicenter study in 205 adult Caucasian patients with untreated first episode of Graves' hyperthyroidism.

Methods

Evaluation of genotypes (HLA DRB1*03, DQA1*05, DQB1*02; CTLA4 49A/G, CT60 A/G; PTPN22 C/T) in relation to phenotypes (age, sex, severity (clinical, biochemical, and immunological)) of hyperthyroidism and environmental factors (smoking, stress questionnaires).

Results

G-alleles in CTLA4 single nucleotide polymorphisms were dose-dependently associated with younger age at the time of diagnosis and less exposure to daily hassles. In gender-specific analysis, this association is enhanced in men and attenuated in women. Males (but not females) in HLA linkage disequilibrium had more severe (biochemical and immunological) hyperthyroidism and a tendency to younger age at diagnosis, compared with those not in linkage disequilibrium.

Conclusion

Graves' hyperthyroidism occurs at a younger age with less exposure to environmental factors in subjects carrying susceptibility genotypes. The impact of genotypes seems to be greater in males than in females.

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Peter H Bisschop, Arno W Toorians, Erik Endert, Wilmar M Wiersinga, Louis J Gooren and Eric Fliers

Objective: Estrogen and androgen administration modulate the pituitary–thyroid axis through alterations in thyroid hormone-binding globulin (TBG) metabolism, but the effects of sex steroids on extrathyroidal thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3) conversion in humans are unknown.

Design and methods: We studied 36 male-to-female and 14 female-to-male euthyroid transsexuals at baseline and after 4 months of hormonal treatment. Male-to-female transsexuals were treated with cyproterone acetate (CA) 100 mg/day alone (n=10) or in combination with either oral ethinyl estradiol (or-EE) 100 μg/day (n=14) or transdermal 17β-estradiol (td-E) 100 μg twice a week (n=12). Female-to-male transsexuals were treated with i.m. testosterone 250 mg twice a week. A t-test was used to test for differences within groups and ANOVAwith post hoc analysis to test for differences between the groups.

Results: Or-EE increased TBG (100 ± 12%, P<.001) and testosterone decreased TBG (−14 ± 4%, P =0.01), but free T4 did not change. Td-E and CA did not affect TBG concentrations. TSH was not different between groups at baseline or after treatment. CA decreased T3/T4 ratios (−9 ± 3%, P=0.04), suggesting that T4 to T3 conversion was lower. Testosterone increased T3/T4 ratios (30 ± 9%, P=0.02), which probably reflects higher T4 to T3 conversion.

Conclusion: Oral but not transdermal estradiol increases TBG, whereas testosterone lowers TBG. Testosterone increases T3/T4 ratios. Estradiol does not affect T3/T4 ratios, irrespective of the route of administration.

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Aleid G van Wassenaer, Joke H Kok, Erik Endert, Thomas Vulsma and Jan JM de Vijlder

Very preterm infants (less than 30 weeks' gestational age) were treated with thyroxine in three different dosage schemes: 10, 8 and 6 μg·kg−1 birthweight·day−1 during the first 6 weeks of life. The aim was to prevent transient hypothyroxinemia of the preterm infant. Plasma levels of thyroxine, free thyroxine, triiodothyronine, reverse triiodothyronine, thyroxine-binding globulin and thyrotropin were measured weekly. Thyroxine administration increased thyroxine and free thyroxine levels most properly in the 8-μg supplementation group. It did not result in a change in plasma triiodothyronine levels. Levels of reverse triiodothyronine increased in relation to the thyroxine dosage. Thyrotropin secretion was suppressed in the 6- and 8-μg groups during the first 2 weeks, while in the 10-μg group suppression lasted 4 weeks. No clinical adverse effects of thyroxine administration were seen. We conclude that 8 μg thyroxine·kg−1 birthweight·day−1 for 6 weeks prevents transient hypothyroxinemia. The finding that plasma triiodothyronine concentrations are not influenced by thyroxine administration suggests a specific maturation process in the deiodination of thyroxine.

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Xander G Vos, Natalie Smit, Erik Endert, Jan G P Tijssen and Wilmar M Wiersinga

Objective

Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to susceptibility of Graves' disease. In this study, we evaluated whether the duration of symptoms or a positive family history of autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) are related to specific phenotypes in patients with a first episode of Graves' hyperthyroidism (GH).

Design

Cross-sectional multicentre observational study.

Patients

Two hundred and sixty-three consecutive untreated patients (mean age (±s.d.) 42.6±12.4 years; range 16–79 years) with a first episode of GH were included. Biochemical and clinical severity of GH was evaluated. Participants were asked to complete questionnaires about environmental factors (smoking behavior, use of estrogens, stress etc.), the duration of symptoms (interval between start of symptoms and date of referral) and family history for AITD. We ascertained the autoimmune nature of thyroid disease in affected relatives. Family history scores (FHS; high score indicating a close genetic relationship and/or a large number of affected relatives) were calculated for patients with a positive family history for AITD.

Results

The peak incidence for the diagnosis of GH was 2–3 months after onset of symptoms (32% of patients). Duration of symptoms was negatively associated with age (P for trend=0.04). A positive family history for AITD was present in 42.6% of patients. Patients with the highest FHS were more often male (P=0.01) while age at onset was lower (P=0.02) compared to patients with a lower FHS. Among patient groups with different FHS, no differences were found in exposure to environmental factors, nor in clinical or biochemical severity of hyperthyroidism.

Conclusion

Our study does not support the hypothesis that a short duration of thyrotoxic symptoms until diagnosis is related to more severe hyperthyroidism in Graves' disease. We have found supporting evidence for the existence of genetic anticipation in Graves' disease by means of a lower age of onset in the group with the highest FHS.

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Xander G Vos, Natalie Smit, Erik Endert, Jos F Brosschot, Jan G P Tijssen and Wilmar M Wiersinga

Objective

The evidence that stress may provoke Graves' hyperthyroidism in genetically susceptible subjects is substantial. Whether exposure to stress is related to the severity of thyrotoxicosis has not been studied. Advancing age is associated with not only less severe Graves' hyperthyroidism but also self-reported stress. We tested the hypothesis whether advancing age is associated with less exposure to stress, resulting in a lower immunological response, and less severe Graves' hyperthyroidism.

Design

Cross-sectional multicenter study.

Patients

Two hundred and sixty-three consecutive untreated patients with a first episode of Graves' hyperthyroidism were included. The severity of Graves' hyperthyroidism was evaluated biochemically (freeT4-index and freeT3-index, thyrotropin-binding inhibitory immunoglobulin (TBII)) and clinically by the hyperthyroid symptom scale score (HSS score). Stress exposure was quantitated by three questionnaires.

Results

Advancing age was associated with less severe Graves' hyperthyroidism, both biochemically by lower serum freeT3-index and freeT4-index (P<0.01), lower serum TBII (P=0.05), and clinically by lower HSS scores (P=0.04) and smaller goiter size (P<0.01). FreeT3-index and freeT4-index were directly associated with HSS scores (P<0.01). Stress scores were associated with HSS scores (P<0.01) but not with biochemical severity of Graves' hyperthyroidism. Advancing age was associated with lower scores for stress exposure. Multivariate regression analysis showed that HSS score was independently related to the tendency to report negative feelings (P<0.01) but not to other stress scores and also not to age.

Conclusion

Advancing age is associated with less exposure to stress, lower serum TBII and less severe clinical and biochemical Graves' hyperthyroidism. Because no direct relationship exists between stress exposure and TBII or freeT3-index and freeT4-index, we reject our hypothesis that less stress is causally related to biochemically less severe Graves' hyperthyroidism in old age. HSS score is primarily determined by negative feelings and not by age.

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Laura P B Elbers, Carla Moran, Victor E A Gerdes, Bregje van Zaane, Joost C M Meijers, Erik Endert, Greta Lyons, Krishna Chatterjee, Peter H Bisschop and Eric Fliers

Objective

Hyperthyroidism is associated with a hypercoagulable state, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. Patients with resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH) due to defective thyroid hormone receptor β (THRB or THRB) exhibit elevated circulating thyroid hormones (TH) with refractoriness to TH action in THRB-expressing tissues. We tested the hypothesis that the hypercoagulable state in hyperthyroidism is mediated via the THRB.

Design

We conducted a cross-sectional study from November 2013 to January 2015 in 3 hospitals in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Methods

Patients with RTH due to defective THRB (n=18), patients with hyperthyroidism (n=16) and euthyroid subjects (n=18) were included. TH concentrations and markers of coagulation and fibrinolysis were measured. Data are expressed as median (interquartile range).

Results

Free thyroxine (FT4) levels were slightly higher in hyperthyroid patients than in RTH patients (53.9 (30.5–70.0) and 34.9 (28.4–42.2)pmol/L, respectively, P=0.042). Both groups had raised FT4 levels compared with euthyroid subjects (14.0 (13.0–15.8)pmol/L, P≤0.001). Levels of von Willebrand factor (VWF), factor (F) VIII, fibrinogen and d-dimer were significantly higher in hyperthyroid patients than in RTH patients (VWF 231 (195–296) vs 111 (82–140)%, FVIII 215 (192–228) vs 145 (97–158)%, fibrinogen 3.6 (3.0–4.4) vs 2.8 (2.5–3.2)g/L, d-dimer 0.41 (0.31–0.88) vs 0.20 (0.17–0.26)mg/L, respectively, P≤0.001), while there were no differences between RTH patients and euthyroid controls.

Conclusions

Parameters of coagulation and fibrinolysis were elevated in hyperthyroid patients compared with patients with RTH due to defective THRB, whereas these parameters were not different between euthyroid controls and RTH patients, despite elevated FT4 concentrations in RTH patients. This indicates that the procoagulant effects observed in hyperthyroidism are mediated via the THRB.

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Nitash Zwaveling-Soonawala, M Emma Witteveen, Jan Pieter Marchal, Femke C C Klouwer, Nadine A Ikelaar, Anne M J B Smets, Rick R van Rijn, Erik Endert, Eric Fliers and A S Paul van Trotsenburg

Objective

The hypothalamus–pituitary–thyroid (HPT) axis set point develops during the fetal period and first two years of life. We hypothesized that thyroxine treatment during these first two years, in the context of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in children with Down syndrome, may have influenced the HPT axis set point and may also have influenced the development of Down syndrome-associated autoimmune thyroiditis.

Methods

We included 123 children with Down syndrome 8.7 years after the end of an RCT comparing thyroxine treatment vs placebo and performed thyroid function tests and thyroid ultrasound. We analyzed TSH and FT4 concentrations in the subgroup of 71 children who were currently not on thyroid medication and had no evidence of autoimmune thyroiditis.

Results

TSH concentrations did not differ, but FT4 was significantly higher in the thyroxine-treated group than that in the placebo group (14.1 vs 13.0 pmol/L; P = 0.02). There was an increase in anti-TPO positivity, from 1% at age 12 months to 6% at age 24 months and 25% at age 10.7 years with a greater percentage of children with anti-TPO positivity in the placebo group (32%) compared with the thyroxine-treated group (18.5%) (P = 0.12). Thyroid volume at age 10.7 years (mean: 3.4 mL; range: 0.5–7.5 mL) was significantly lower (P < 0.01) compared with reference values (5.5 mL; range: 3–9 mL) and was similar in the thyroxine and placebo group.

Conclusion

Thyroxine treatment during the first two years of life led to a mild increase in FT4 almost 9 years later on and may point to an interesting new mechanism influencing the maturing HPT axis set point. Furthermore, there was a trend toward less development of thyroid autoimmunity in the thyroxine treatment group, suggesting a protective effect of the early thyroxine treatment. Lastly, thyroid volume was low possibly reflecting Down-specific thyroid hypoplasia.

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Jantien P Brouwer, Bente C Appelhof, Witte J G Hoogendijk, Jochanan Huyser, Erik Endert, Cassandra Zuketto, Aart H Schene, Jan G P Tijssen, Richard Van Dyck, Wilmar M Wiersinga and Eric Fliers

Objective: Major depressive disorder has been associated with changes in the hypothalamus–pituitary–thyroid (HPT) axis and with hypercortisolism. However, the changes reported have been at variance, probably related to in- or outpatient status, the use of antidepressant medication and the heterogeneity of depression. We therefore conducted a controlled study in unipolar depressed outpatients who had been free of antidepressants for at least 3 months.

Design: We assessed endocrine parameters in 113 depressed outpatients and in 113 sex- and age-matched controls.

Methods: Patients were included if they had a major depression according to a Structural Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), fourth edition (SCID-IV) and if they had a 17-item Hamilton rating scale for depression (HRSD) score of ≥16. Endocrine parameters contained serum concentrations of TSH, (free) thyroxine, tri-iodothyronine, cortisol, thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibody titre and 24-h urinary excretion of cortisol.

Results: The serum concentration of TSH was slightly higher in depressed patients as compared with controls (P < 0.001), independent of the presence of subclinical hypothyroidism and/or TPO antibodies (n = 28). All other HPT axis parameters were similar in both groups. The 24-h urinary cortisol excretion was similar in patients and controls. In atypical depression, serum cortisol was lower than in non-atypical depression (P = 0.01). Patients with neither melancholic depression nor severe depression (HRSD ≥23) had altered endocrine parameters. Finally, serum TSH values could not be related to cortisol values.

Conclusion: When compared with matched control subjects, outpatients with major depression had slightly higher serum TSH, while urinary cortisol levels were similar. Furthermore, we observed lower serum cortisol in atypical depression than in non-atypical depression.