Thyrotropin powers human mitochondria

Burkhard Poeggeler, Jana Knuever, Erzsébet Gáspár, Tamás Bíró, Matthias Klinger, Eniko Bodó, Rudolf J. Wiesner, Björn E. Wenzel, Ralf Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Here we demonstrate that the neuropeptide hormone thyrotropin (TSH), which controls thyroid hormone production, exerts a major nonclassical function in mitochondrial biology. Based on transcriptional, ultrastructural, immunohistochemical, and biochemical evidence, TSH up-regulates mitochondrial biogenesis and consequently activity in organ-cultured normal human epidermis in situ. Mitochondrial activity was assessed by measuring 2 key components of the respiratory chain. The abundance of mitochondria was assessed employing 2 independent morphological techniques: counting their numbers in human epidermis by high-magnification light microscopy of skin sections immunostained for mitochondria-selective cytochrome-c-oxidase subunit 1 (MTCO1) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Treatment with 10 mU/ml of TSH for 6 d strongly up-regulates the number of light-microscopically visualized, MTCO1-demarcated mitochondria. On the ultrastructural level, TEM confirms that TSH indeed stimulates mitochondrial proliferation and biogenesis in the perinuclear region of human skin epidermal keratinocytes. On the transcriptional level, TSH up-regulates MTCO1 mRNA (quantitative RT-PCR) and significantly enhances complex I and IV (cytochrome-c-oxidase) activity. This study pioneers the concept that mitochondrial energy metabolism and biogenesis in a normal, prototypic human epithelial tissue underlies potent neuroendocrine controls and introduces human skin organ culture as a clinically relevant tool for further exploring this novel research frontier in the control of mitochondrial biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1525-1531
Number of pages7
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis
  • Mitochondrial energy metabolism
  • Oxygen utilization
  • Skin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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