Magazine article Science News

Bad for the Bones: Thwarted Hormone Leads to Skeletal Decay

Magazine article Science News

Bad for the Bones: Thwarted Hormone Leads to Skeletal Decay

Article excerpt

A hormone with one widely recognized task may not be single purposed after all. Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is made in the pituitary gland and circulates in the body, pumps up production of thyroid hormone, an important regulator of metabolism. Now, research demonstrates that TSH also affects the constant remodeling of bone: Lab mice that aren't responsive to TSH show signs of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.

Mone Zaidi of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and his colleagues created mice missing half or all copies of the TSH receptor, the cell membrane protein to which the hormone must bind to initiate any of its actions. The mice devoid of TSH receptors were small and sickly and died within 10 weeks.

Mice with half the usual number of TSH receptors appeared healthy but had a hidden problem. Although they made normal amounts of thyroid hormone, these mice had frail bones that were rapidly remodeling themselves--simultaneously destroying existing bone while adding new tissue inappropriately. Thyroid hormone deficiencies weren't responsible for the defect, Zaidi says, because even when these mice were given additional thyroid hormone, they still showed bone defects.

"As a physician and as a scientist, I learned that the only function of TSH is to regulate thyroid hormone production," says Zaidi, whose findings appear in the Oct. 17 Cell. In this experiment, however, animals with depleted TSH receptors had normal thyroid function but brittle bones. "It really contradicts the textbook picture," he says.

In healthy skeletons, two cell types work in concert to constantly remodel bone. Osteoclasts break down bone structures, while osteoblasts form new bone. Zaidi and his colleagues found that a lack of TSH receptors leads to overactive and unusually long-lived osteoclasts and osteoblasts. …

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