MCT8-AHDS Foundation

Structure and Function of Thyroid Hormone Plasma Membrane Transporters

Ulrich Schweizer, Jörg Johannes, Dorothea Bayer, Doreen Braun

Thyroid hormones (TH) cross the plasma membrane with the help of transporter proteins. As charged amino acid derivatives, TH cannot simply diffuse across a lipid bilayer membrane, despite their notorious hydrophobicity. The identification of monocarboxylate transporter 8 (MCT8, SLC16A2) as a specific and very active TH transporter paved the way to the finding that mutations in the MCT8 gene cause a syndrome of psychomotor retardation in humans. The purpose of this review is to introduce the current model of transmembrane transport and highlight the diversity of TH transmembrane transporters. The interactions of TH with plasma transfer proteins, T 3 receptors, and deiodinase are summarized. It is shown that proteins may bind TH owing to their hydrophobic character in hydrophobic cavities and/or by specific polar interaction with the phenolic hydroxyl, the aminopropionic acid moiety, and by weak polar interactions with the iodine atoms. These findings are compared with our understanding of how TH transporters interact with substrate. The presumed effects of mutations in MCT8 on protein folding and transport function are explained in light of the available homology model.