Inactivating variants of TSH receptor (TSHR) cause congenital hypothyroidism. More than 60 such variants have been reported so far, most of which were located in the extracellular or transmembrane domain.
We report the identification and characterization of a frameshift TSHR variant in the intracytoplasmic C-tail region.
Sequencing of TSHR was performed in a patient with congenital hypothyroidism. The functionality of the identified variants was assessed by expressing TSHR in HEK293 cells and measuring TSH-dependent activation of the cAMP-response element-luciferase reporter. A series of systematic mutagenesis experiments were performed to characterize the frameshifted amino acid sequence.
The proband was heterozygous for a known TSHR variant (p.Arg519His) and a novel frameshift TSHR variant (p.Val711Phefs*18), which removed 54 C-terminal residues and added a 17 frameshifted sequence. The loss of function of Val711Phefs*18-TSHR was confirmed in vitro, but the function of Val711*-TSHR was found to be normal. Western blotting showed the low protein expression of Val711Phefs*18-TSHR. Fusion of the frameshift sequence to green fluorescent protein or luciferase induced inactivation of them, indicating that the sequence acted as a degron. A systematic mutagenesis study revealed that the density of hydrophobic residues in the frameshift sequence determined the stability. Eight additional frameshift TSHR variants that covered all possible shifted frames in C-tail were created, and another frameshift variant (Thr748Profs*27) with similar effect was found.
We characterized a naturally-occurring frameshift TSHR variant located in C-tail, and provided a unique evidence that hydrophobicity in the C-terminal region of the receptor affects protein stability.

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