The diverse functions of thyroid hormone (T3) are presumed to be mediated by two genes encoding the related receptors, TRalpha and TRbeta. However, the in vivo functions of TRalpha and TRbeta are undefined. Here, we report that targeted inactivation of the mouse TRbeta gene results in goitre and elevated levels of thyroid hormone. Also, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is released by pituitary thyrotropes and which is normally suppressed by increased levels of thyroid hormone, was present at elevated levels in homozygous mutant (Thrb-/-) mice. These findings suggest a unique role for TRbeta that cannot be substituted by TRalpha in the T3-dependent feedback regulation of TSH transcription. Thrb-/- mice provide a recessive model for the human syndrome of resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH) that exhibits a similar endocrine disorder but which is typically caused by dominant TRbeta mutants that are transcriptional inhibitors. It is unknown whether TRalpha, TRbeta or other receptors are targets for inhibition in dominant RTH; however, the analysis of Thrb-/- mice suggests that antagonism of TRbeta-mediated pathways underlies the disorder of the pituitary-thyroid axis. Interestingly, in the brain, the absence of TRbeta may not mimic the defects often associated with dominant RTH, since no overt behavioural or neuroanatomical abnormalities were detected in Thrb-/- mice. These data define in vivo functions for TRbeta and indicate that specificity in T3 signalling is conferred by distinct receptor genes.