Thyroid hormone and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) interactions in neuroendocrine systems

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2006 Jul;144(3):332-44. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2006.01.033. Epub 2006 Mar 9.


Thyroid hormones (THs) have critical roles in brain development and normal brain function in vertebrates. Clinical evidence suggests that some human nervous disorders involving GABA(gamma-aminobutyric acid)-ergic systems are related to thyroid dysfunction (i.e. hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism). There is experimental evidence from in vivo and in vitro studies on rats and mice indicating that THs have effects on multiple components of the GABA system. These include effects on enzyme activities responsible for synthesis and degradation of GABA, levels of glutamate and GABA, GABA release and reuptake, and GABA(A) receptor expression and function. In developing brain, hypothyroidism generally decreases enzyme activities and GABA levels whereas in adult brain, hypothyroidism generally increases enzyme activities and GABA levels. Hyperthyroidism does not always have the opposite effect. In vitro studies on adult brain have shown that THs enhance GABA release and inhibit GABA-reuptake by rapid, extranuclear actions, suggesting that presence of THs in the synapse could prolong the action of GABA after release. There are conflicting results on effects of long term changes in TH levels on GABA reuptake. Increasing and decreasing circulating TH levels experimentally in vivo alter density of GABA(A) receptor-binding sites for GABA and benzodiazepines in brain, but results vary from study to study, which may reflect important regional differences in the brain. There is substantial evidence that THs also have an extranuclear effect to inhibit GABA-stimulated Cl(-) currents by a non-competitive mechanism in vitro. The thyroid gland exhibits GABA transport mechanisms as well as enzyme activities for GABA synthesis and degradation, all of which are sensitive to thyroidal state. In rats and humans, GABA inhibits thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) release from the pituitary, possibly by action directly on the pituitary or on hypothalamic thyrotropin-releasing hormone neurons. In mice, GABA inhibits TSH-stimulated TH release from the thyroid gland. Taken together, these studies provide strong support for the hypothesis that there is reciprocal regulation of the thyroid and GABA systems in vertebrates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurosecretory Systems / metabolism*
  • Pituitary Gland / drug effects
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Receptors, GABA / metabolism
  • Thyroid Gland / drug effects
  • Thyroid Gland / metabolism
  • Thyroid Hormones / metabolism*
  • Thyrotropin / metabolism
  • Thyrotropin / pharmacology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology


  • Receptors, GABA
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Thyrotropin