Thyroid hormones (THs) are required for the growth and development of the fetus, stimulating anabolism, and oxygen consumption from the early stages of pregnancy to the period of fetal differentiation close to delivery. Maternal changes in the hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis are also well known. In contrast, several open questions remain regarding the relationships between the placenta and the maternal and fetal TH systems. The exact mechanism by which the placenta participates in regulating the TH concentration in the fetus and mother and the role of TH in the placenta are still poorly studied. In this review, we aim to summarize the available data in the area and highlight significant gaps in our understanding of the ontogeny and cell-specific localization of TH transporters, TH receptors, and TH metabolic enzymes in the placenta in both human and rodent models. Significant deficiencies also exist in the knowledge of the contribution of genomic and nongenomic effects of TH on the placenta and finally, how the placenta reacts during pregnancy when the mother has thyroid disease. By addressing these key knowledge gaps, improved pregnancy outcomes and management of women with thyroid alterations may be possible.
Thyroid hormone transport, action, and metabolism in the placenta have important roles in controlling fetal growth both developmentally and in response to suboptimal maternal environments.