<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

In the bloodstream, less than one percent of the circulating T 3 and T 4 remains unbound. This free T 3 and T 4 can cross the lipid bilayer of cell membranes and be taken up by cells. The remaining 99 percent of circulating T 3 and T 4 is bound to specialized transport proteins called thyroxine-binding globulins (TBGs), to albumin, or to other plasma proteins. This “packaging” prevents their free diffusion into body cells. When blood levels of T 3 and T 4 begin to decline, bound T 3 and T 4 are released from these plasma proteins and readily cross the membrane of target cells. T 3 is more potent than T 4 , and many cells convert T 4 to T 3 through the removal of an iodine atom.

Regulation of th synthesis

The release of T 3 and T 4 from the thyroid gland is regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). As shown in [link] , low blood levels of T 3 and T 4 stimulate the release of thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) from the hypothalamus, which triggers secretion of TSH from the anterior pituitary. In turn, TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to secrete T 3 and T 4 . The levels of TRH, TSH, T 3 , and T 4 are regulated by a negative feedback system in which increasing levels of T 3 and T 4 decrease the production and secretion of TSH.

Classic negative feedback loop

This diagram illustrates a negative feedback loop. It shows the general steps of a negative feedback loop at the center (imbalance, hormone release, correction, and negative feedback) using the example of the hormone cascade that regulates metabolic rate. The hypothalamus releases TRH in response to low metabolic rate and or low T three and T four concentrations in the blood (imbalance). This triggers TSH release by the pituitary (hormone release). The TSH travels to the thyroid where it triggers T three and T four release by the thyroid cells. T three and T four increase basal metabolic rate of the body cells and cause a rise in body temperature (the calorigenic effect). T three and T four then feed back to the hypothalamus and inhibits TRH and TSH release. If metabolic rate is high and or T three and T four concentrations are low, then the hypothalamus stops releasing TRH (negative feedback). As a result, the anterior pituitary will not release TSH and no T three or T four will be produced by the thyroid.
A classic negative feedback loop controls the regulation of thyroid hormone levels.

Functions of thyroid hormones

The thyroid hormones, T 3 and T 4 , are often referred to as metabolic hormones because their levels influence the body’s basal metabolic rate, the amount of energy used by the body at rest. When T 3 and T 4 bind to intracellular receptors located on the mitochondria, they cause an increase in nutrient breakdown and the use of oxygen to produce ATP. In addition, T 3 and T 4 initiate the transcription of genes involved in glucose oxidation. Although these mechanisms prompt cells to produce more ATP, the process is inefficient, and an abnormally increased level of heat is released as a byproduct of these reactions. This so-called calorigenic effect (calor- = “heat”) raises body temperature.

Adequate levels of thyroid hormones are also required for protein synthesis and for fetal and childhood tissue development and growth. They are especially critical for normal development of the nervous system both in utero and in early childhood, and they continue to support neurological function in adults. As noted earlier, these thyroid hormones have a complex interrelationship with reproductive hormones, and deficiencies can influence libido, fertility, and other aspects of reproductive function. Finally, thyroid hormones increase the body’s sensitivity to catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine) from the adrenal medulla by upregulation of receptors in the blood vessels. When levels of T 3 and T 4 hormones are excessive, this effect accelerates the heart rate, strengthens the heartbeat, and increases blood pressure. Because thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, heat production, protein synthesis, and many other body functions, thyroid disorders can have severe and widespread consequences.

Disorders of the…

Endocrine system: iodine deficiency, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism

As discussed above, dietary iodine is required for the synthesis of T 3 and T 4 . But for much of the world’s population, foods do not provide adequate levels of this mineral, because the amount varies according to the level in the soil in which the food was grown, as well as the irrigation and fertilizers used. Marine fish and shrimp tend to have high levels because they concentrate iodine from seawater, but many people in landlocked regions lack access to seafood. Thus, the primary source of dietary iodine in many countries is iodized salt. Fortification of salt with iodine began in the United States in 1924, and international efforts to iodize salt in the world’s poorest nations continue today.

Dietary iodine deficiency can result in the impaired ability to synthesize T 3 and T 4 , leading to a variety of severe disorders. When T 3 and T 4 cannot be produced, TSH is secreted in increasing amounts. As a result of this hyperstimulation, thyroglobulin accumulates in the thyroid gland follicles, increasing their deposits of colloid. The accumulation of colloid increases the overall size of the thyroid gland, a condition called a goiter    ( [link] ). A goiter is only a visible indication of the deficiency. Other iodine deficiency disorders include impaired growth and development, decreased fertility, and prenatal and infant death. Moreover, iodine deficiency is the primary cause of preventable mental retardation worldwide. Neonatal hypothyroidism (cretinism) is characterized by cognitive deficits, short stature, and sometimes deafness and muteness in children and adults born to mothers who were iodine-deficient during pregnancy.


This photo shows a woman with a goiter, which is an extreme, irregular swelling on the anterior side of the neck.
(credit: “Almazi”/Wikimedia Commons)

In areas of the world with access to iodized salt, dietary deficiency is rare. Instead, inflammation of the thyroid gland is the more common cause of low blood levels of thyroid hormones. Called hypothyroidism    , the condition is characterized by a low metabolic rate, weight gain, cold extremities, constipation, reduced libido, menstrual irregularities, and reduced mental activity. In contrast, hyperthyroidism    —an abnormally elevated blood level of thyroid hormones—is often caused by a pituitary or thyroid tumor. In Graves’ disease, the hyperthyroid state results from an autoimmune reaction in which antibodies overstimulate the follicle cells of the thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism can lead to an increased metabolic rate, excessive body heat and sweating, diarrhea, weight loss, tremors, and increased heart rate. The person’s eyes may bulge (called exophthalmos) as antibodies produce inflammation in the soft tissues of the orbits. The person may also develop a goiter.


The thyroid gland also secretes a hormone called calcitonin    that is produced by the parafollicular cells (also called C cells) that stud the tissue between distinct follicles. Calcitonin is released in response to a rise in blood calcium levels. It appears to have a function in decreasing blood calcium concentrations by:

  • Inhibiting the activity of osteoclasts, bone cells that release calcium into the circulation by degrading bone matrix
  • Increasing osteoblastic activity
  • Decreasing calcium absorption in the intestines
  • Increasing calcium loss in the urine

However, these functions are usually not significant in maintaining calcium homeostasis, so the importance of calcitonin is not entirely understood. Pharmaceutical preparations of calcitonin are sometimes prescribed to reduce osteoclast activity in people with osteoporosis and to reduce the degradation of cartilage in people with osteoarthritis. The hormones secreted by thyroid are summarized in [link] .

Thyroid Hormones
Associated hormones Chemical class Effect
Thyroxine (T 4 ), triiodothyronine (T 3 ) Amine Stimulate basal metabolic rate
Calcitonin Peptide Reduces blood Ca 2+ levels

Of course, calcium is critical for many other biological processes. It is a second messenger in many signaling pathways, and is essential for muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission, and blood clotting. Given these roles, it is not surprising that blood calcium levels are tightly regulated by the endocrine system. The organs involved in the regulation are the parathyroid glands.

Chapter review

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the neck anterior to the trachea. Its hormones regulate basal metabolism, oxygen use, nutrient metabolism, the production of ATP, and calcium homeostasis. They also contribute to protein synthesis and the normal growth and development of body tissues, including maturation of the nervous system, and they increase the body’s sensitivity to catecholamines. The thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T 3 ) and thyroxine (T 4 ) are produced and secreted by the thyroid gland in response to thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) from the anterior pituitary. Synthesis of the amino acid–derived T 3 and T 4 hormones requires iodine. Insufficient amounts of iodine in the diet can lead to goiter, cretinism, and many other disorders.

Questions & Answers

What is ovulation
Joy Reply
Ovulation is release of mature ovum from ovary
what is physiology
Firdaus Reply
The study of how e body systems or structures function and interrelate with each other
what is the composition of the ground substance?
Nana Reply
large carbohydrates and proteins which is known as acid mucopolysacchrides
you guy welcome
Hi guys am new here
how does the negative feedback helps in maintaining body temperature at its normal range
I need good sites that I can test myself on chapters 1,3,4,5. I have an exam tomorrow
please can you kindly share your questions here after the exams please
What causes the banding pattern seen in the muscle fibril under the electron microscope
what organelles controls protein synthesis?
Katie Reply
hmm...the ribosomes?
are ribisomes made in the rRNA?
nop they are produced by cells of Nucleolus
Is there anything about nerve and muscle physiology?
AMEL Reply
how many types of epithelial tissues do we have
Benedicta Reply
Epithelial tissues are grouped in two ways.. ●Based on the number of layers.(Simple and stratified ) ●Based of their shapes(Squamous,Cuboidal and columnar) Also we can have a combination of the two,say,simple Squamous
awww thanks dearie😊😊😊💖
describe the function and structure of blood
Belindah Reply
It has four main components: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Blood has many different functions, including: transporting oxygen and nutrients to the lungs and tissues.
well answered arlena.. #thumbs up#
have u some prepared MCQs on CNS and Special senses physiology?
Anyone got the human heart labelled diagram
you can download from Google... I don't think it's possible to share docs or files here
ok thanks
you're welcome..
Thank you
what's an easy way of knowing the different structures of tissues what they do and where their found
are you know function of the blood?
to carry nutrients to parts of the body
well Lola the easiest way is to attributes the tissues based on their funcs(especially those with similar funcs)..you can create your own mnemonics that will help you rmba em..and the a random reading.. it helps you retain em better
and try random reading*
ok thanks
funtction of WBCs
bone tissue
Blood is a fluid connective tissue made up of blood cells suspended in plasma, which is the fluid part of blood. The cell include erthrocytes, leukocytes and thrombocytes. Blood is responsible for transportation of substances around e body eg hormones oxygen and substances
Blood is responsible for defence... As it acts as a defense mechanism against microbes through action of leukocytes which destroy any foreign substances
identy the vein and arteries of coronary circulation
abdifatah Reply
to be a nurse a doctor or just to understand the body
Drew Reply
what is the basic part of life
cell remains the basic unit of life...
The coronary arteries branches off of what
Ada Reply
rephrase your question
Discuss Active Myosin contraction theory
Xavier Reply
What is dissected?
Jc Reply
It is a minute and detailed analysis.."dissection"rather..
what is the net charge on both atoms of hydrogen and helium?
Brianna Reply
Muche kuch bhi samaz me nhi aa rha he
kya samaj nahii Aa raha hai
What is homeostasis?
Xavier Reply
it is tha condition of equilibrium in body is internal invorment
it is a dynamic condition
it is the tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements.
what is connective tissue
sourav Reply
it is tissue that connects, binds, supports and separates
Just as it name it Connects and helps to attach parts
tissue in a connects to tha bones

Get the best Anatomy & Physiology course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Anatomy & Physiology' conversation and receive update notifications?