[Cardiovascular Effects of Thyroid Hormones]

Z Kardiol. 1996;85 Suppl 6:219-31.
[Article in German]


The heart is a major target organ for thyroid hormone action, and marked changes occur in cardiac function in patients with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Triiodothyronine (T3)-induced changes in cardiac function can result from direct or indirect T3 effects. Direct T3 effects result from T3 action in the heart itself and are mediated by nuclear or extranuclear mechanisms. Extranuclear T3 effects, which occur independently of nuclear T3 receptor binding and increases in protein synthesis, influence primarily the transport of amino acids, sugars, and calcium across the cell membrane. Nuclear T3 effects are mediated by the binding of T3 to specific nuclear receptor proteins, which results in increased transcription of T3-responsive cardiac genes. The T3 receptor is a member of the ligand-activated transcription factor family and is encoded by cellular erythroblastosis A (c-erb A) genes. T3 increases the heart transcription of the myosin heavy chain (MHC) alpha gene and decreases the transcription of the MHC beta gene, leading to an increase of myosin V1 and a decrease in myosin V3 isoenzymes. Myosin V1, which is composed of two MHC alpha, has a higher myosin ATPase activity than myosin V3, which contains two MHC beta. The globular head of myosin V1, with its higher ATPase activity, leads to a more rapid movement of the globular head of myosin along the thin filament, resulting in an increased velocity of contraction. T3 also leads to an increase in the speed of diastolic relaxation, which is caused by the more efficient pumping of the calcium ATPase of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR). This T3 effect results from T3-induced increases in the level of the mRNA coding for the SR calcium ATPase protein, leading to an increased number of calcium ATPase pump units in the SR. Overall, T3 leads to an increase in ATP consumption in the heart. In addition, less chemical energy of ATP is used for contractile purposes and more of it goes toward heat production, which causes a decreased efficiency of the contractile process in the hyperthyroid heart. The pathophysiologic basis for myxedema is the opposite of that discussed for the hyperthyroid heart. In addition to decreased direct effects of thyroid hormone in cardiac myocytes, indirect effects occur through decreases in peripheral oxygen consumption and changes in hemodynamic parameters. Myofibrillar swelling with loss of striation and interstitial fibrosis occurs on histologic examination of hypothyroid hearts. In addition, accumulation of mucopolysaccharide substances (Glycosaminoglycans) can be demonstrated. On electron microscopic examination, mitochondria show disruption and lipid inclusion. Cardiac papillary muscle obtained from animals with hypothyroidism shows a depression of the force velocity curve and reduced rate of tension development, indicating significant contractile abnormalities. In patients with hypothyroidism, a true enhanced incidence of hypertension (increased peripheral vascular resistance) has been found. In addition, hypercholesterolemia and impairment of fatty acid mobilization are associated with myxedema and present additional risk factors for the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteriosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Hemodynamics / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Hyperthyroidism / physiopathology*
  • Hypothyroidism / physiopathology*
  • Myocardial Contraction / physiology*
  • Myxedema / physiopathology
  • Thyroid Hormones / physiology*


  • Thyroid Hormones