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Immunology. 1994 Feb; 81(2): 309–316.
PMCID: PMC1422309

A high iodine intake in Wistar rats results in the development of a thyroid-associated ectopic thymic tissue and is accompanied by a low thyroid autoimmune reactivity.


Evidence is accumulating that dietary iodine intake is an important modulator of autoimmune thyroid reactions. To study this role of iodine intake further, female Wistar rats were kept on an enriched iodine diet (EID, iodine intake 100 micrograms iodine/day) for a period of up to 18 weeks. Control rats were either on a normal iodine diet (NID, iodine intake 7 micrograms iodine/day) or a low iodine diet (LID, 2 days of 1% KClO4 followed by iodine-deficient drinking water/pellets). During the first 6 weeks of the EID rats developed a thyroid-associated ectopic thymic tissue (50-57% of the animals on EID versus 7-14% of NID rats and 0% of LID rats). This thyroid-associated ectopic thymic tissue showed a similar histology (cortex and medulla) and a similar marker pattern as normal rat thymus concerning TdT expression (positive cells in the cortex) and CD4/CD8 positivity (double-positive cells in the cortex, single-positive cells in the medulla). The excessive iodine diet also resulted in a lowered thyroid autoimmune reactivity as compared to the NID and LID, viz. (1) in a lower incidence of anti-colloid antibodies in serum (12.5% positivity in EID rats versus 36% in NID and 60% in LID rats at 18 weeks) and (2) lower numbers of intrathyroidal lymphoid cells, viz. lower numbers of dendritic cells and lower numbers of CD4 and CD8 positive lymphocytes. It is hypothesized that the development of the thyroid-associated ectopic thymic tissue in the EID rats is related to their low thyroid autoimmune responsiveness; the tissue might play a role in tolerance induction to thyroidal autoantigens.

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Selected References

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