Thyroid-like hormone signaling in invertebrates and its potential role in initial screening of thyroid hormone system disrupting chemicals

J E Morthorst, H Holbech, Noémie De Crozé, P Matthiessen, G A LeBlanc

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This review examines the presence and evolution of thyroid-like systems in selected aquatic invertebrates to determine the potential use of these organisms in screens for vertebrate thyroid hormone axis disrupting chemicals (THADCs). Such a screen might support the phasing out of some vertebrate testing. Although arthropods including crustaceans do not contain a functional thyroid signaling system, elements of such a system exist in the aquatic phyla mollusks, echinoderms, tunicates, and cephalochordates. These phyla can synthesize thyroid hormone, which has been demonstrated in some groups to induce the nuclear thyroid hormone receptor (THR). Thyroid hormone may act in these phyla through interaction with a membrane integrin receptor. Thyroid hormone regulates inter alia metamorphosis but, unlike in vertebrates, this does not occur via receptor activation by the ligands triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Instead, the unliganded nuclear receptor itself controls metamorphosis in mollusks, echinoderms, and tunicates, whereas the T3 derivative tri-iodothyroacetic acid (TRIAC) acts as a THR ligand in cephalochordates. In view of this, it may be possible to develop an invertebrate-based screen that is sensitive to vertebrate THADCs that interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis or metabolism along with interaction with membrane receptors. The review makes some recommendations for the need to develop an appropriate test method. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2023;19:63–82.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIntegrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)63-82
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Endocrine disruption
  • Invertebrate
  • Screening
  • Thyroid
  • Thyroxine/metabolism
  • Animals
  • Thyroid Gland/metabolism
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone/metabolism
  • Thyroid Hormones/metabolism
  • Triiodothyronine/metabolism
  • Invertebrates/physiology


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