The sympathoadrenal system, including the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal medulla, interacts with thyroid hormone (TH) at various levels. Both systems are evolutionary old and regulate independent functions, playing probably independent roles in poikilothermic species. With the advent of homeothermy, TH acquired a new role, which is to stimulate thermogenic mechanisms and synergize with the sympathoadrenal system to produce heat and maintain body temperature. An important part of this new function is mediated through coordinated and, most of the time, synergistic interactions with the sympathoadrenal system. Catecholamines can in turn activate TH in a tissue-specific manner, most notably in brown adipose tissue. Such interactions are of great adaptive value in cold adaptation and in states needing high-energy output. Conversely, in states of emergency where energy demand should be reduced, such as disease and starvation, both systems are turned down. In pathological states, where one of the systems is fixed at a high or a low level, coordination is lost with disruption of the physiology and development of symptoms. Exaggerated responses to catecholamines dominate the manifestations of thyrotoxicosis, while hypothyroidism is characterized by a narrowing of adaptive responses (e.g., thermogenic, cardiovascular, and lipolytic). Finally, emerging results suggest the possibility that disrupted interactions between the two systems contribute to explain metabolic variability, for example, fuel efficiency, energy expenditure, and lipolytic responses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism