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Endocrinology. 1987 Jan;120(1):91-6.

Progressive recruitment of follicular cells with graded secretory responsiveness during stimulation of the thyroid gland by thyrotropin.


One of the earliest responses of the thyroid cells to TSH is macropinocytosis with formation of intracellular colloid droplets. We demonstrate here that increasing stimulation with TSH not only elicits a highly individual macropinocytotic response among different follicular cells but that the fraction of TSH-responsive cells is also a function of the TSH dose. After pretreatment with T4, mice and rats were injected ip with bovine TSH and killed 2 h later. The macropinocytotic response to TSH was evaluated on periodic acid-Schiff-stained 3-microns sections of the thyroids in terms of droplet number per 25 follicles and, in addition, by assessing recruitment, i.e. percentage of droplet-containing cells. Both variables increased with increasing TSH stimulation until they reached a plateau at about 9 mU TSH in mice and at about 300 mU TSH in rats: the percentage of droplet-containing cells gradually increased in mice from 2% (no TSH) to 67% (9 mU TSH) and in rats from 11% (no TSH) to 54% (300 mU TSH). Overall pinocytotic response as well as thyrocyte recruitment could be modified by extra- and intrathyroidal factors: for example, pretreatment of the mice with an iodine-deficient diet increased the maximal percentage of droplet containing cells to nearly 90%. Obviously, two separate components of the macropinocytotic response of the thyroid gland to TSH can be distinguished: the first is the gradually increasing fraction of droplet-containing cells, the second is the well known increase of the number of colloid droplets in each TSH-responsive cell with progressive TSH stimulation. Recruitment of thyrocytes with a gradually increasing natural threshold to a hormonal stimulus appears to be a fundamental mechanism in the thyroid gland and possibly in other organs.

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