Adaptations of the autonomous nervous system controlling heart rate are impaired by a mutant thyroid hormone receptor-alpha1

Jens Mittag, Benjamin Davis, Milica Vujovic, Anders Arner, Björn Vennström


Thyroid hormone has profound direct effects on cardiac function, but the hormonal interactions with the autonomic control of heart rate are unclear. Because thyroid hormone receptor (TR)-alpha1 has been implicated in the autonomic control of brown adipose energy metabolism, it might also play an important role in the central autonomic control of heart rate. Thus, we aimed to analyze the role of TRalpha1 signaling in the autonomic control of heart rate using an implantable radio telemetry system. We identified that mice expressing the mutant TRalpha1R384C (TRalpha1+m mice) displayed a mild bradycardia, which becomes more pronounced during night activity or on stress and is accompanied by a reduced expression of nucleotide-gated potassium channel 2 mRNA in the heart. Pharmacological blockage with scopolamine and the beta-adrenergic receptor antagonist timolol revealed that the autonomic control of cardiac activity was similar to that in wild-type mice at room temperature. However, at thermoneutrality, in which the regulation of heart rate switches from sympathetic to parasympathetic in wild-type mice, TRalpha1+m mice maintained sympathetic stimulation and failed to activate parasympathetic signaling. Our findings demonstrate a novel role for TRalpha1 in the adaptation of cardiac activity by the autonomic nervous system and suggest that human patients with a similar mutation in TRalpha1 might exhibit a deficit in cardiac adaptation to stress or physical activity and an increased sensitivity to beta-blockers.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)2388-95
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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