Prenatal Treatment of Thyroid Hormone Cell Membrane Transport Defect Caused by MCT8 Gene Mutation

Samuel Refetoff, Theodora Pappa, Meredith K. Williams, M. Gisele Matheus, Xiao Hui Liao, Karen Hansen, Lindsey Nicol, Melinda Pierce, Peter A. Blasco, Mandie Wiebers Jensen, Juan Bernal, Roy E. Weiss, Alexandra M. Dumitrescu, Stephen Lafranchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Mutations of the thyroid hormone (TH)-specific cell membrane transporter, monocarboxylate transporter 8 (MCT8), produce an X-chromosome-linked syndrome of TH deficiency in the brain and excess in peripheral tissues. The clinical consequences include brain hypothyroidism causing severe psychoneuromotor abnormalities (no speech, truncal hypotonia, and spastic quadriplegia) and hypermetabolism (poor weight gain, tachycardia, and increased metabolism, associated with high serum levels of the active TH, T3). Treatment in infancy and childhood with TH analogues that reduce serum triiodothyronine (T3) corrects hypermetabolism, but has no effect on the psychoneuromotor deficits. Studies of brain from a 30-week-old MCT8-deficient embryo indicated that brain abnormalities were already present during fetal life. Methods: A carrier woman with an affected male child (MCT8 A252fs268∗), pregnant with a second affected male embryo, elected to carry the pregnancy to term. We treated the fetus with weekly 500 μg intra-amniotic instillation of levothyroxine (LT4) from 18 weeks of gestation until birth at 35 weeks. Thyroxine (T4), T3, and thyrotropin (TSH) were measured in the amniotic fluid and maternal serum. Treatment after birth was continued with LT4 and propylthiouracil. Follow-up included brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neurodevelopmental evaluation, both compared with the untreated brother. Results: During intrauterine life, T4 and T3 in the amniotic fluid were maintained above threefold to twofold the baseline and TSH was suppressed by 80%, while maternal serum levels remained unchanged. At birth, the infant serum T4 was 14.5 μg/dL and TSH <0.01 mU/L compared with the average in untreated MCT8-deficient infants of 5.1 μg/and >8 mU/L, respectively. MRI at six months of age showed near-normal brain myelination compared with much reduced in the untreated brother. Neurodevelopmental assessment showed developmental quotients in receptive language and problem-solving, and gross motor and fine motor function ranged from 12 to 25 at 31 months in the treated boy and from 1 to 7 at 58 months in the untreated brother. Conclusions: This is the first demonstration that prenatal treatment improved the neuromotor and neurocognitive function in MCT8 deficiency. Earlier treatment with TH analogues that concentrate in the fetus when given to the mother may further rescue the phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-720
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Allan-Herndon-Dudley syndrome
  • MCT8
  • TH membrane transporter
  • amniotic fluid
  • genetics
  • hypothyroidism
  • prenatal treatment
  • thyroid hormone action

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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