The role of transthyretin in cell biology: impact on human pathophysiology

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2021 Sep;78(17-18):6105-6117. doi: 10.1007/s00018-021-03899-3. Epub 2021 Jul 23.


Transthyretin (TTR) is an extracellular protein mainly produced in the liver and choroid plexus, with a well-stablished role in the transport of thyroxin and retinol throughout the body and brain. TTR is prone to aggregation, as both wild-type and mutated forms of the protein can lead to the accumulation of amyloid deposits, resulting in a disease called TTR amyloidosis. Recently, novel activities for TTR in cell biology have emerged, ranging from neuronal health preservation in both central and peripheral nervous systems, to cellular fate determination, regulation of proliferation and metabolism. Here, we review the novel literature regarding TTR new cellular effects. We pinpoint TTR as major player on brain health and nerve biology, activities that might impact on nervous systems pathologies, and assign a new link between TTR and angiogenesis and cancer. We also explore the molecular mechanisms underlying TTR activities at the cellular level, and suggest that these might go beyond its most acknowledged carrier functions and include interaction with receptors and activation of intracellular signaling pathways.

Keywords: Cell metabolism; Neuronal health; Neuroprotection; Proliferation; Transthyretin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyloidosis / etiology*
  • Amyloidosis / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Prealbumin / chemistry
  • Prealbumin / genetics
  • Prealbumin / metabolism*
  • Protein Aggregates / physiology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Thyroxine / chemistry
  • Thyroxine / metabolism
  • Vitamin A / chemistry
  • Vitamin A / metabolism


  • Prealbumin
  • Protein Aggregates
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Vitamin A
  • Thyroxine