Sustained Pituitary T3 Production Explains the T4-mediated TSH Feedback Mechanism

Endocrinology. 2023 Nov 2;164(12):bqad155. doi: 10.1210/endocr/bqad155.


The regulation of thyroid activity and thyroid hormone (TH) secretion is based on feedback mechanisms that involve the anterior pituitary TSH and medial basal hypothalamus TSH-releasing hormone. Plasma T3 levels can be "sensed" directly by the anterior pituitary and medial basal hypothalamus; plasma T4 levels require local conversion of T4 to T3, which is mediated by the type 2 deiodinase (D2). To study D2-mediated T4 to T3 conversion and T3 production in the anterior pituitary gland, we used mouse pituitary explants incubated with 125I-T4 for 48 hours to measure T3 production at different concentrations of free T4. The results were compared with cultures of D1- or D2-expressing cells, as well as freshly isolated mouse tissue. These studies revealed a unique regulation of the D2 pathway in the anterior pituitary gland, distinct from that observed in nonpituitary tissues. In the anterior pituitary, increasing T4 levels reduced D2 activity slightly but caused a direct increase in T3 production. However, the same changes in T4 levels decreased T3 production in human HSkM cells and murine C2C12 cells (both skeletal muscle) and mouse bone marrow tissue, which reached zero at 50 pM free T4. In contrast, the increase in T4 levels caused the pig kidney LLC-PK1 cells and kidney fragments to proportionally increase T3 production. These findings have important implications for both physiology and clinical practice because they clarify the mechanism by which fluctuations in plasma T4 levels are transduced in the anterior pituitary gland to mediate the TSH feedback mechanism.

Keywords: TSH; deiodinase; feedback; pituitary; thyroid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes*
  • Mice
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Swine
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine* / metabolism
  • Triiodothyronine / metabolism


  • Thyroxine
  • Iodine-125
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Thyrotropin
  • Triiodothyronine