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Endocrinology. 1992 May;130(5):2651-9.

L-thyroxine and 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine concentrations in the chicken egg and in the embryo before and after the onset of thyroid function.

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Unidad de Endocrinología Molecular, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.


The concentrations of T4 and T3 were measured by specific RIAs in chicken embryonated eggs and embryonic tissues before (at 4 and 6 days of incubation) and after the onset of thyroid function (at 10-20 days). All samples were submitted to extensive delipidation and purification. T4 and T3 were found in the yolk, as described by others, and also in the egg white, although at lower concentrations. The initial total maternal supplies per egg are 67 ng T4 and 30 ng T3 in the yolk, and 2.4 ng T4 and 1.9 ng T3 in the egg albumen. Whole 4-day-old embryos contained a total of 2.48 pg T4 and 0.65 pg T3. The head (mostly brain) of 6-day old embryos contained 4.1 pg T4 and 4.6 pg T3; T4 (but not T3) was also measurable in the carcass. The concentrations of T4 increased progressively between 10 and 20 days in the brain, eyes, liver, and heart; they were especially high in the eyes (4.8 ng/g) and liver (8.2 ng/g) at 20 days. T3 levels increased markedly in the brain (to 5.1 ng/g at 20 days) and less markedly in the eyes (to 1.3 ng/g) and heart (to 1.6 ng/g), but were low and stable in liver up to 18 days (0.3 ng/g), after which there was a sudden increase to 1.4 ng/g at 20 days. Iodothyronines are, therefore, available to the chick embryo throughout development both before and after the onset of thyroid function. T3 concentrations, especially in the brain, reach much higher levels than previously inferred from the low plasma T3 levels. These findings show similarities with those described for the fetal rat.

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