Thyrotrophin and thyroxine support immune homeostasis in humans

Martin Jaeger, Yvette J E Sloot, Rob Ter Horst, Xiaojing Chu, Hans J P M Koenen, Valerie A C M Koeken, Simone J C F M Moorlag, Charlotte J de Bree, Vera P Mourits, Heidi Lemmers, Helga Dijkstra, Marco Medici, Antonius E van Herwaarden, Irma Joosten, Leo A B Joosten, Yang Li, Johannes W A Smit, Mihai G Netea, Romana T Netea-Maier*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    The endocrine and the immune systems interact by sharing receptors for hormones and cytokines, cross-control and feedback mechanisms. To date, no comprehensive study has assessed the impact of thyroid hormones on immune homeostasis. By studying immune phenotype (cell populations, antibody concentrations, circulating cytokines, adipokines and acute-phase proteins, monocyte-platelet interactions and cytokine production capacity) in two large independent cohorts of healthy volunteers of Western European descent from the Human Functional Genomics Project (500FG and 300BCG cohorts), we identified a crucial role of the thyroid hormone thyroxin (T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) on the homeostasis of lymphocyte populations. TSH concentrations were strongly associated with multiple populations of both effector and regulatory T cells, whereas B-cell populations were significantly associated with free T4 (fT4). In contrast, fT4 and TSH had little impact on myeloid cell populations and cytokine production capacity. Mendelian randomization further supported the role of fT4 for lymphocyte homeostasis. Subsequently, using a genomics approach, we identified genetic variants that influence both fT4 and TSH concentrations and immune responses, and gene set enrichment pathway analysis showed enrichment of fT4-affected gene expression in B-cell function pathways, including the CD40 pathway, further supporting the importance of fT4 in the regulation of B-cell function. In conclusion, we show that thyroid function controls the homeostasis of the lymphoid cell compartment. These findings improve our understanding of the immune responses and open the door for exploring and understanding the role of thyroid hormones in the lymphocyte function during disease.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages14
    Early online date17-Jan-2021
    Publication statusPublished - 7-Feb-2021


    • immune response
    • thyroid hormones
    • thyroid&#8208
    • stimulating hormone (TSH)
    • adaptive immunity
    • innate immunity

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