Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology vol:151 issue:1-2 pages:37-47
Compared with adults, plasma T3 concentrations in the human fetus are decreased, whereas levels of rT3 and the different iodothyronine sulfates, T4S, T3S, rT3S and 3,3'-T2S, are increased. The low T3 and high rT3 concentrations reflect the preponderance of inner ring versus outer ring deiodinase activity due to high type III iodothyronine deiodinase (D3) expression in fetal tissues, such as liver and brain, the placenta, and perhaps also the uterus, in combination with still incomplete expression of hepatic type I iodothyronine deiodinase (D1) expression. In contrast to humans, D3 is hardly expressed in the fetal rat liver. However, high D3 expression is observed in the embryonic chicken liver which decreases dramatically towards the end of incubation, resulting in a marked increase in plasma T3. Thyroid hormone is essential for the development of the brain, in which local conversion of the prohormone T4 to the active hormone T3 by the type II iodothyronine deiodinase (D2) plays a very important role. In contrast to the rat, however, little is known about the ontogeny of D2 in different human brain areas. The cause of the high concentrations of sulfated iodothyronines in fetal plasma is unknown. In adults, the liver is an important site for the clearance of these conjugates, where they are rapidly degraded by D1. Although fetal human liver expresses significant D1 activity, clearance of iodothyronine sulfates may be defective due to the lack of transporters mediating their hepatic uptake. However, production of iodothyronine sulfates may also be increased in the human fetus, although the responsible sulfotransferases and their location remain to be identified. Sulfation may be a reversible pathway of thyroid hormone inactivation, depending on the recovery of free hormone by sulfatases. However, little is known at present about the characteristics and regulation of these enzymes in fetal human tissues. Further studies are required to increase our understanding of the tissue-specific and stage-dependent regulation of thyroid hormone bioactivity during human development. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.