Divergent roles for thyroid hormone receptor beta isoforms in the endocrine axis and auditory system.
Thyroid hormone receptors (TRs) modulate various physiological functions in many organ systems. The TR alpha and TR beta isoforms are products of 2 distinct genes, and the beta 1 and beta 2 isoforms are splice variants of the same gene. Whereas TR alpha 1 and TR beta 1 are widely expressed, expression of the TR beta 2 isoform is mainly limited to the pituitary, triiodothyronine-responsive TRH neurons, the developing inner ear, and the retina. Mice with targeted disruption of the entire TR beta locus (TR beta-null) exhibit elevated thyroid hormone levels as a result of abnormal central regulation of thyrotropin, and also develop profound hearing loss. To clarify the contribution of the TR beta 2 isoform to the function of the endocrine and auditory systems in vivo, we have generated mice with targeted disruption of the TR beta 2 isoform. TR beta 2-null mice have preserved expression of the TR alpha and TR beta 1 isoforms. They develop a similar degree of central resistance to thyroid hormone as TR beta-null mice, indicating the important role of TR beta 2 in the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis. Growth hormone gene expression is marginally reduced. In contrast, TR beta 2-null mice exhibit no evidence of hearing impairment, indicating that TR beta 1 and TR beta 2 subserve divergent roles in the regulation of auditory function.