Contrasting effects of activating mutations of GαS and the thyrotropin receptor on proliferation and differentiation of thyroid follicular cells

M. Ludgate, V. Gire, M. Crisp, R. Ajjan, A. Weetman, M. Ivan, D. Wynford-Thomas

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21 Scopus citations


The cyclic AMP pathway is a major regulator of thyrocyte function and proliferation and, predictably, its inappropriate activation is associated with a sub-set of human thyroid tumours. Activating mutations are, however, more common in the thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) than in its downstream transducer, Gαs. To investigate whether this reflects an inherent difference in their oncogenic potency, we compared the effects of retrovirally-transduced mutant (A623I) TSHR or (Q227L) Gαs (GSP), using the rat thyroid cell line FRTL5 and primary human thyrocytes. In FRTL5, expression of GSP or mutant (m) TSHR induced a 2-3-fold increase in basal levels of cAMP. This was associated with TSH-independent proliferation (assessed by both cell number and DNA synthesis) and function (as shown by increased expression of thyroglobulin (Tg) and the sodium/iodide symporter). In primary cultures, expression of mTSHR, but not GSP, consistently induced formation of colonies with epithelial morphology and thyroglobulin expression, capable of 10-15 population doublings (PD) compared to less than three in controls. Thus, while mTSHR and GSP exert similar effects in FRTL5, use of primary cultures reveals a major difference in their ability to induce sustained proliferation in normal human thyrocytes, and provides the first direct evidence that mTSHR is sufficient to initiate thyroid tumorigenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4798-4807
Number of pages10
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 26 1999



  • Cyclic AMP
  • G protein
  • Oncogene
  • TSH receptor
  • Thyroid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research

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