A Comprehensive Review of Thyroid Hormone Metabolism in the Gut and Its Clinical Implications

Thyroid. 2023 Jan;33(1):32-44. doi: 10.1089/thy.2022.0491. Epub 2023 Jan 6.


Background: The gut is a target organ of thyroid hormone (TH) that exerts its action via the nuclear thyroid hormone receptor α1 (TRα1) expressed in intestinal epithelial cells. THs are partially metabolized via hepatic sulfation and glucuronidation, resulting in the production of conjugated iodothyronines. Gut microbiota play an important role in peripheral TH metabolism as they produce and secrete enzymes with deconjugation activity (β-glucuronidase and sulfatase), via which TH can re-enter the enterohepatic circulation. Summary: Intestinal epithelium homeostasis (the finely tuned balance between cell proliferation and differentiation) is controlled by the crosstalk between triiodothyronine and TRα1 and the presence of specific TH transporters and TH-activating and -inactivating enzymes. Patients and experimental murine models with a dominant-negative mutation in the TRα exhibit gross abnormalities in the morphology of the intestinal epithelium and suffer from severe symptoms of a dysfunctional gastrointestinal tract. Over the past decade, gut microbiota has been identified as an essential factor in health and disease, depending on its compositional and functional profile. This has led to a renewed interest in the so-called gut-thyroid axis. Disruption of gut microbial homeostasis (dysbiosis) is associated with autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD), including Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Graves' disease, and Graves' orbitopathy. These studies reviewed here provide new insights into the gut microbiota roles in thyroid disease pathogenesis and may be an initial step toward microbiota-based therapies in AITD. However, it should be noted that cause-effect mechanisms remain to be proven, for which prospective cohort studies, randomized clinical trials, and experimental studies are needed. Conclusion: This review aims at providing a comprehensive insight into the interplay between TH metabolism and gut homeostasis.

Keywords: autoimmune thyroid disease; gut; microbiota; thyroid hormone metabolism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Graves Disease / metabolism
  • Graves Ophthalmopathy / metabolism
  • Hashimoto Disease / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Thyroid Hormones* / metabolism


  • Thyroid Hormones