Marsupial models for understanding evolution of thyroid hormone distributor proteins.
ABSTRACT Marsupials are a group of mammals that are under-exploited, in particular in developmental and evolutionary studies of biological systems. In this review, the roles that marsupials have played in elucidating the evolution of thyroid hormone distribution systems are summarised. Marsupials are born at very early developmental stages, and most development occurs during lactation rather than in utero. Studying thyroid hormone distribution systems during marsupial development, in addition to comparing the two Orders of marsupials, gave clues as to the selection pressures acting on the hepatic gene expression of transthyretin (TTR), one of the major thyroid hormone distributor proteins in blood. The structure of TTR in marsupials is intermediate between that of avian/reptilian TTRs and eutherian ("placental mammalian") TTRs. Consequently, the function of marsupial TTR is intermediate between those of avian/reptilian TTRs and eutherian TTRs. Thus, in some respects marsupials can be considered as "missing links" in vertebrate evolution.