60 YEARS OF NEUROENDOCRINOLOGY: TRH, the first hypophysiotropic releasing hormone isolated: control of the pituitary–thyroid axis

    1. Jean-Louis Charli
    1. Departamento de Genética del Desarrollo y Fisiología Molecular, Instituto de Biotecnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), A.P. 510-3, Cuernavaca, Morelos 62250, Mexico
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to P Joseph-Bravo; Email: joseph{at}ibt.unam.mx


    This review presents the findings that led to the discovery of TRH and the understanding of the central mechanisms that control hypothalamus–pituitary–thyroid axis (HPT) activity. The earliest studies on thyroid physiology are now dated a century ago when basal metabolic rate was associated with thyroid status. It took over 50 years to identify the key elements involved in the HPT axis. Thyroid hormones (TH: T4 and T3) were characterized first, followed by the semi-purification of TSH whose later characterization paralleled that of TRH. Studies on the effects of TH became possible with the availability of synthetic hormones. DNA recombinant techniques permitted the identification of all the elements involved in the HPT axis, including their mode of regulation. Hypophysiotropic TRH neurons, which control the pituitary–thyroid axis, were identified among other hypothalamic neurons which express TRH. Three different deiodinases were recognized in various tissues, as well as their involvement in cell-specific modulation of T3 concentration. The role of tanycytes in setting TRH levels due to the activity of deiodinase type 2 and the TRH-degrading ectoenzyme was unraveled. TH-feedback effects occur at different levels, including TRH and TSH synthesis and release, deiodinase activity, pituitary TRH-receptor and TRH degradation. The activity of TRH neurons is regulated by nutritional status through neurons of the arcuate nucleus, which sense metabolic signals such as circulating leptin levels. Trh expression and the HPT axis are activated by energy demanding situations, such as cold and exercise, whereas it is inhibited by negative energy balance situations such as fasting, inflammation or chronic stress. New approaches are being used to understand the activity of TRHergic neurons within metabolic circuits.

    • Received in final form 27 May 2015
    • Accepted 22 June 2015
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 22 June 2015
    | Table of Contents