International researchers, including a team at McGill University, have discovered a new cause for thyroid hormone deficiency, or hypothyroidism.
This common endocrine disorder is typically caused by problems of the thyroid gland, and more rarely, by defects in the brain or the pituitary gland (hypophysis). However, a new cause of the disease has been discovered from an unsuspected source and is reported in the journal Nature Genetics.
The scientists, led by McGill Professor Daniel Bernard, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics in the Faculty of Medicine, identified a new hereditary form of hypothyroidism that is more prevalent in males than in females. This sex bias shone a light on where to look for the underlying cause.
"Our collaborators in the Netherlands had been following a family in which two cousins had an unusual syndrome of hypothyroidisim and enlarged testicles," said Prof. Bernard. "Using state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technologies, we identified a mutation in a gene called immunoglobulin superfamily, member 1 (IGSF1), in both boys and their maternal grandfather. As one of few labs in the world studying this gene, we initiated a collaboration to determine whether the observed mutation might cause the disorder. At the time, the IGSF1 gene was known to be active in the pituitary gland, but its function was a mystery".
"Shortly after, we were contacted independently by a second group of researchers, studying a second family, in which two young brothers suffered from hypothyroidism and also harbored a mutation in the IGSF1 gene, though it was a different mutation than that observed in the Dutch family," said Prof. Bernard, "The fact that there were two unrelated families with the same male-biased clinical syndrome and mutations in the same gene strongly suggested that the mutations played a causal role in hypothyroidism".
The groups reached out to researchers in the Netherlands, the UK, Italy and Australia who were following similar families and found that affected males all had mutations in their IGSF1 gene. Overall, the team identified 11 families with 10 different mutations in IGSF1.
"We went on to show that mutations in IGSF1 block the protein it encodes from moving to the cell surface, where it normally functions", explained Beata Bak, McGill Ph.D. student and the paper's co-first author. "We also observed that the pituitary glands of mice lacking IGSF1 had reduced levels of the receptor for a brain-derived hormone known as thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). If we think of TRH as a key, then its receptor is the lock into which the key fits to produce its effects. Our results suggest that in the absence of IGSF1, the pituitary gland becomes less sensitive to the brain's instructions to secrete thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). As a result, the thyroid gland receives a reduced impetus to produce thyroid hormones".
The group's findings are significant as IGSF1 mutations cause a variable, though principally mild, form of hypothyroidism that would likely escape detection by most perinatal thyroid function screening methodologies. In addition, since the IGSF1 gene is highly polymorphic, there may be many individuals (boys and men, in particular) in the general population with presently undetected, but clinically significant hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of the disease include fatigue, weight gain, cold sensitivity, and muscle weakness. If left untreated, hypothyroidism increases the risk of developing heart disease. In infants, hypothyroidism can cause neurodevelopmental delay and, in extreme circumstances, cretinism.
"A simple test could identify carriers of IGSF1 gene mutations or variants who might benefit from thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Our results highlight a fundamental role for this protein in how the brain and pituitary gland control thyroid function and therefore the whole body metabolism. We hope our work will inspire new research on IGSF1's function in the pituitary gland under various physiological and pathophysiological conditions", said Prof. Bernard.
Chris Chipello | EurekAlert!
Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University
The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy