Autonomously functioning thyroid nodules in a former iodine-deficient area commonly harbor gain-of-function mutations in the thyrotropin signaling pathway

Eur J Endocrinol. 2003 Oct;149(4):287-92. doi: 10.1530/eje.0.1490287.


Background: Somatic activating mutations of the thyrotropin (thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)) receptor (TSHR) and G(alphas) protein have been detected in solitary toxic adenomas and toxic multinodular goiters, but their role in the pathogenesis of autonomous nodules is debated. The frequency of mutations is highly variable among populations and is inversely proportional to iodine intake.

Design and patients: We screened 28 clinically and histologically heterogeneous autonomous nodules from 24 Greek patients for the presence of TSHR and G(alphas) mutations.

Results: By direct sequencing of genomic DNA, we detected 11 somatic heterozygous gain-of-function mutations in TSHR and one in G(alphas). Forty-three percent (12 of 28) of all nodules and 57% (four of seven) of solitary toxic adenomas harbored an activating mutation. Typical adenomas and hyperplastic nodules did not differ in mutation frequency. Substitutions I568T and T632I were detected in both histological types of nodules.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that activating somatic mutations in the TSH signaling pathway are frequent in autonomous nodules in Greece. This may be due to earlier exposure of the population to iodine deficiency, which was corrected in Greece only over the past two decades. Gain-of-function mutations are shared by nodules with varying histological and clinical presentations. Thus, they may represent a common molecular mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of non-autoimmune thyroid autonomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / genetics
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Endemic Diseases
  • Female
  • Goiter, Nodular / genetics
  • Goiter, Nodular / surgery
  • Greece
  • Heterotrimeric GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia
  • Iodine / deficiency*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation*
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*
  • Thyroid Nodule / genetics*
  • Thyroid Nodule / pathology
  • Thyroid Nodule / surgery
  • Thyroidectomy
  • Thyrotropin / genetics
  • Thyrotropin / physiology*


  • Receptors, Thyrotropin
  • Thyrotropin
  • Iodine
  • Heterotrimeric GTP-Binding Proteins