Studies on the specificity of thyroid response to pituitary glycoprotein hormones.
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Thyrotropins (TSH) and gonadotropins (luteinizing hormone, LH, and follicle-stimulating hormone, FSH) purified from ovine, bovine, ostrich, sea turtle, and bullfrog pituitary glands were tested for their ability to simulate the thyroid glands of four species of amphibians (three anurans and a urodele), a reptile (the slider turtle), and a bird (the cockerel). All animals tested responded specifically to mammalian, sea turtle, and ostrich thyrotropins; any thyroid-stimulating activity of the gonadotropins from these species could be accounted for by their contamination with thyrotropin. In addition, the three anuran species showed a high degree of specificity for bullfrog TSH; bullfrog LH exhibited low thyrotropic activity in amphibians. In contrast, bullfrog LH was more potent than bullfrog TSH in stimulating the thyroid gland of the cockerel. This bird therefore resembles reptiles in showing a "heterothyrotropic" response to bullfrog LH. The hormonal specificity of thyroid response to these pituitary glycoprotein hormones therefore varies distinctly among representatives of different vertebrate classes. Although the tetrapods tested were generally specific for thyrotropin in their thyroid responses to homologous and heterologous pituitary hormones, occasionally a lack of specificity for heterologous hormones existed which could be shared by species from closely-related classes. The varied patterns seen indicate that independent evolution of the functional characteristics of the thryotropin receptor has occurred to different degrees within each vertebrate class.