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The hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid (HPT)-axis and its role in physiology and pathophysiology of other hypothalamus-pituitary functions

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The hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis is one of several hormone regulatory systems from the hypothalamus to the pituitary and ultimately to the peripheral target organs. The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are in close anatomical proximity at the base of the brain and extended through the pituitary stalk to the sella turcica. The pituitary stalk allows passage of stimulatory and inhibitory hormones and other signal molecules. The target organs are placed in the periphery and function through stimulation/inhibition by the circulating pituitary hormones. The several hypothalamus-pituitary-target organ axis systems interact in very sophisticated and complicated ways and for many of them the interactive and integrated mechanisms are still not quite clear. The diagnosis of central hypothyroidism is complicated by itself but challenged further by concomitant affection of other hypothalamus-pituitary-hormone axes, the dysfunction of which influences the diagnosis of central hypothyroidism. Treatment of both the central hypothyroidism and the other hypothalamus-pituitary axes also influence the function of the others by complex mechanisms involving both central and peripheral mechanisms. Clinicians managing patients with neuroendocrine disorders should become aware of the strong integrative influence from each hypothalamus-pituitary-hormone axis on the physiology and pathophysiology of central hypothyroidism. As an aid in this direction the present review summarizes and highlights the importance of the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis, pitfalls in diagnosing central hypothyroidism, diagnosing/testing central hypothyroidism in relation to panhypopituitarism, pointing at interactions of the thyroid function with other pituitary hormones, as well as local hypothalamic neurotransmitters and gut-brain hormones. Furthermore, the treatment effect of each axis on the regulation of the others is described. Finally, these complicating aspects require stringent diagnostic testing, particularly in clinical settings with lower or at least altered à priori likelihood of hypopituitarism than in former obvious clinical patient presentations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111173
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
Volume525
Pages (from-to)111173
ISSN0303-7207
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2021

    Research areas

  • Central hypothyroidism, Clinical management, Hormone interactions, Hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis, Neuroendocrinology

ID: 65610570