Thyroid hormone regulates vitellogenin by inducing estrogen receptor alpha in the goldfish liver

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2016 Nov 15:436:259-67. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2016.08.045. Epub 2016 Aug 30.


Vitellogenin (Vtg) is an egg-yolk precursor protein that is synthesized in the liver of oviparous species and taken up from the circulation by the ovary. It is well known that Vtg is induced by circulating estrogens. However, other endocrine factors that regulate the expression of Vtg are less well characterized; factors that might play significant roles, especially in seasonal spawners such as the goldfish which require increased quantities of Vtg for the development of hundreds of follicles. In this regard, thyroid hormones have been shown to cycle with the reproductive season. Therefore, we hypothesized that the thyroid hormones might influence the synthesis of Vtg. Treatment of female goldfish with triiodothyronine (T3) resulted in increased Vtg, an observation that was absent in males. Furthermore, T3 failed to induce Vtg in cultured hepatocytes of either sex. Interestingly however, T3 consistently up-regulated the expression of the estrogen receptor alpha (ERα). The T3 mediated upregulation of ERα requires the presence of both thyroid receptor (TR) α-1 and TRβ. When goldfish or cultured hepatocytes were treated with T3 followed by estradiol, there was a synergistic increase in Vtg, a response which is dependent on the presence of ERα. Therefore, by upregulating ERα, T3 serves to prime the liver to subsequent stimuli from estradiol. This cross-talk likely reveals an important physiologic mechanism by which thyroid hormones, whose circulating levels are high during early gonadal recrudescence, facilitate the production of large amounts of Vtg required for egg development.

Keywords: Estrogen receptor; Goldfish; Reproduction; Thyroid hormone; Thyroid receptor; Vitellogenin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Goldfish / metabolism*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / metabolism
  • Thyroid Hormones / pharmacology*
  • Triiodothyronine / administration & dosage
  • Triiodothyronine / pharmacology
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / genetics
  • Vitellogenins / genetics
  • Vitellogenins / metabolism*


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Vitellogenins
  • Triiodothyronine