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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Activin A and activin receptors in the human thyroid: a link to the female predominance of goiter?

Activin A belongs to the TGF-beta family of growth factors involved in control of tissue formation by growth inhibition and to a family of hormones involved in human reproduction. Serum levels of dimeric activin A display a sexual dimorphism with significantly higher circulating hormone concentrations in men than in women after menopause. Since goiter is far more frequent in women than in men, we investigated the role of this sex-related growth factor in the human thyroid. Primary cultures were obtained from 3 patients with goiter, and 4 with recurrent goiter. Activin A significantly inhibited the proliferation of human thyroid follicular epithelial cells in vitro in concentrations between 0.5 and 50 ng/ml and was almost as potent as TGFbeta-1. Analysis in native tissues from 12 normal thyroids, 16 goiters, and 5 Graves thyroids demonstrated mRNA expression of the activin subunit betaA, TGFbeta-receptor type I and II, activin receptors type I receptors alk2 and alk4, and activin type II receptors actRII and actRIIb. Isoform analysis of the major functional type I activin receptor alk4 revealed the full-length transcript SKR2-1 and transcripts for the partially truncated proteins SKR2-2 and SKR2-3 in normal thyroids and goiters. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR revealed a significant 2.5-fold decrease of mRNA for alk4-1 type I activin receptors in goiter as compared to normal thyroid (p < 0.05), whereas expression of the type II receptor actRII was unchanged. These data identify a novel growth inhibitory pathway by activin in the human thyroid. Down-regulation of activin receptor type lb in goiter hints towards end-organ changes which could contribute to deficient growth inhibition. These data provide a mechanistic model how the sexually dimorphic hormone activin A may protect males from goitrogenesis.[1]


  1. Activin A and activin receptors in the human thyroid: a link to the female predominance of goiter? Schulte, K.M., Jonas, C., Krebs, R., Röher, H.D. Horm. Metab. Res. (2000) [Pubmed]
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