Thyroid-stimulating hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor structure-function relationships

Physiol Rev. 2002 Apr;82(2):473-502. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00031.2001.


This review focuses on recent advances in the structure-function relationships of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and its receptor. TSH is a member of the glycoprotein hormone family constituting a subset of the cystine-knot growth factor superfamily. TSH is produced by the pituitary thyrotrophs and released to the circulation in a pulsatile manner. It stimulates thyroid functions using specific membrane TSH receptor (TSHR) that belongs to the superfamily of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). New insights into the structure-function relationships of TSH permitted better understanding of the role of specific protein and carbohydrate domains in the synthesis, bioactivity, and clearance of this hormone. Recent progress in studies on TSHR as well as studies on the other GPCRs provided new clues regarding the molecular mechanisms of receptor activation. Such advances are a result of extensive site-directed mutagenesis, peptide and antibody approaches, detailed sequence analyses, and molecular modeling as well as studies on naturally occurring gain- and loss-of-function mutations. This review integrates expanding information on TSH and TSHR structure-function relationships and summarizes current concepts on ligand-dependent and -independent TSHR activation. Special emphasis has been placed on TSH domains involved in receptor recognition, constitutive activity of TSHR, new insights into the evolution of TSH bioactivity, and the development of high-affinity TSH analogs. Such structural, physiological, pathophysiological, evolutionary, and therapeutic implications of TSH-TSHR structure-function studies are frequently discussed in relation to concomitant progress made in studies on gonadotropins and their receptors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / genetics*
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Thyrotropin / chemistry*
  • Thyrotropin / genetics*
  • Thyrotropin / metabolism


  • Receptors, Thyrotropin
  • Thyrotropin