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Endocrinology. 1992 Aug;131(2):621-30.

In vitro study of acute toxic effects of high iodide doses in human thyroid follicles.

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Laboratory of Histology, Catholic University of Louvain, Medical School, Brussels, Belgium.


The acute effects of increasing doses of sodium iodide were studied on human thyroid follicles isolated from normal paranodular tissue. After 24 h incubation in culture medium, follicles isolated from most thyroids maintained their capacity for 125I accumulation and organification and a normal cellular ultrastructure. 125I accumulation was significantly increased after addition of TSH, whereas 125I organification was not affected. In presence of TSH, numerous follicles had large empty-looking follicular lumina unlabeled on autoradiographies. Follicles incubated for 24 h in the presence of a low concentration (10(-7) M) of iodide retained their function and morphology. However, incubation with a high dose of iodide (10(-3) M) caused marked inhibition of 125I accumulation and organification reaching values similar to those obtained in presence of inhibitors of iodide trapping and organification. At high doses, iodide induced necrosis of thyroid epithelial cells: the percentage of necrotic cells was significantly increased with 10(-5) M and doubled with 10(-3) M as compared to values measured at 10(-7) M. Ultrastructural lesions such as apical blebbing, cytoplasmic fragments desquamation, endoplasmic reticulum vesiculation, and accumulation of lipofuscin in secondary lysosomes were also present. The necrotic effect and the ultrastructural alterations also occurred in the presence of TSH but were prevented by the addition of inhibitors of iodide trapping or organification. These results demonstrate a direct acute toxic effect of iodide in human thyroid cells. The nature of the ultrastructural alterations is in agreement with a mechanism of toxicity involving a free radical attack and lipid peroxidation as observed in other tissues.

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