Normal somatic growth requires that both the thyroid hormone axis and GH axis be intact. Thyroid hormone stimulates GH secretion, and many thyroid hormone actions on the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system can be explained by this mechanism. We have previously described distinct changes in IGF binding protein (IGFBP) expression in experimental hypothyroidism in the rat; these changes could be completely corrected by thyroid hormone replacement. To see if the effects of thyroid hormone on IGFBP expression are, in fact, indirect GH effects, we rendered both newborn and adult rats hypothyroid with methimazole treatment, and investigated whether we could correct the resulting IGF and IGFBP changes with GH replacement. The prolonged high expression of serum IGFBP-2 and liver IGFBP-2 messenger RNA (mRNA) during the perinatal period in hypothyroid rat pups could not be normalized by GH therapy, although serum IGF-I values (reduced to 54% of control levels in the hypothyroid animals) were brought up to control level. In adult hypothyroid rats, serum IGF-I concentrations (51% of control levels), were increased up to 79% of control levels, but not totally corrected, by GH therapy. Reduced IGFBP-3 expression (80% of control serum and 50% of control liver mRNA levels) in adult hypothyroid animals was normalized by GH, but there was no correction of the reduced IGFBP-4 serum levels (50% of control levels). Hepatic mRNA levels for the type 1 and 2 IGF receptors were not altered by hypothyroidism, or by thyroid or GH replacement. Somatic growth in hypothyroid pups and adults was only partially corrected by GH therapy. We conclude that GH treatment of hypothyroid animals normalized serum IGF-I levels in the hypothyroid rat pup, but did not correct their prolonged IGFBP-2 expression. In the mature animal, serum IGF-I levels were partially corrected and IGFBP-3 levels were normalized by GH, but no change could be induced in the reduced serum IGFBP-4 levels. All the above changes were normalized by thyroid hormone replacement. Thus, the effects of thyroid hormone on serum IGF levels and IGFBP-3 expression seem to be mediated indirectly via GH. The effects on IGFBP-2 ontogeny, and IGFBP-4 expression in the mature animal, however, are either direct thyroid hormone effects, or mediated by some other route, independent of GH, IGFs, or IGF receptors.
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