Changes in the central component of the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis in a rabbit model of prolonged critical illness

L Mebis, Y Debaveye, B Ellger, S Derde, EJ Ververs, L Langouche, VM Darras, E Fliers, Theo Visser, G van den Berghe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction Prolonged critically ill patients reveal low circulating thyroid hormone levels without a rise in thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This condition is labeled "low 3,5,3'-tri-iodothyronine (T-3) syndrome" or "nonthyroidal illness syndrome (NTI)" or " euthyroid sick syndrome". Despite the low circulating and peripheral tissue thyroid hormone levels, thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) expression in the hypothalamus is reduced and it remains unclear which mechanism is responsible. We set out to study whether increased hypothalamic T-3 availability could reflect local thyrotoxicosis and explain feedback inhibition-induced suppression of the TRH gene in the context of the low T-3 syndrome in prolonged critical illness. Methods Healthy rabbits were compared with prolonged critically ill, parenterally fed animals. We visualized TRH mRNA in the hypothalamus by in situ-hybridization and measured mRNA levels for the type II iodothyronine diodinase (D2), the thyroid hormone transporters monocarboxylate transporter (MCT) 8, MCT10 and organic anion co-transporting polypeptide 1C1 (OATP1C1) and the thyroid hormone receptors alpha (TR alpha) and beta (TR beta) in the hypothalamus. We also measured the activity of the D2 and type III iodothyronine deiodinase (D3) enzymes. Results In the hypothalamus of prolonged critically ill rabbits with low circulating T-3 and TSH, we observed decreased TRH mRNA, increased D2 mRNA and increased MCT10 and OATP1C1 mRNA while MCT8 gene expression was unaltered as compared with healthy controls. This coincided with low hypothalamic thyroxine (T-4) and low-normal T3 concentrations, without a change at the thyroid hormone receptor level. Conclusions Although expression of D2 and of the thyroid hormone transporters MCT10 and OATP1C1 were increased in the hypothalamus of prolonged critical ill animals, hypothalamic T-4 and T-3 content or thyroid hormone receptor expression were not elevated. Hence, decreased TRH gene expression, and hereby low TSH and T-3 during prolonged critical illness, is not exclusively brought about by hypothalamic thyrotoxicosis, and infer other TRH suppressing factors to play a role.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalCritical Care
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Cite this