Thyroid hormone receptors (TRs) are cellular homologues of the viral erythroblastic leukemia oncogene (v-erbA). TRs (c-crbA isoforms) are derived from two separate gene loci in mammals: a and beta. Through a series of knockout experiments in mice in which one or several of the TR isoforms were deleted, it has been demonstrated that the TR-beta isoforms control central regulation of thyroid-stimulating hormone. Of these isoforms, TR-beta2 is the most important in mediating negative feedback control of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis. Further analysis of TR knockout animals revealed, however, that they exhibited a much milder overall phenotype than hypothyroid animals, indicating that receptor loss was not equivalent to ligand loss in vivo. To understand this apparent paradox, we generated animals expressing a non-T3 binding receptor (delta337T) from the TR-beta allele. These mice displayed a complete hypothyroid phenotype, demonstrating that the unliganded TR mediates the effect of hypothyroidism. Because this mutant TR constitutively binds to nuclear coreprssors, it also suggests that this class of proteins is essential for mediating hypothyroidism in vivo.