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Endocrinology. 1995 Dec;136(12):5283-90.

Expression of nitric oxide synthase isoforms in the thyroid gland: evidence for a role of nitric oxide in vascular control during goiter formation.

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Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Molecular Medicine, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.


The thyroid gland is a highly vascular tissue, and its blood flow changes dramatically in various pathological conditions. Although the mechanisms regulating these changes in vascularity and blood flow are not well understood, candidate mediators include endothelin-1 (ET-1) and nitric oxide (NO). In the present study, we used a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assay to determine which components of these vasoregulatory pathways are present in the thyroid and to analyze changes in gene expression in an experimental model of goiter formation and involution. Expression of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) encoding ET-1, ET receptors (ETA and ETB), ET-converting enzyme, and the three nitric oxide synthase (NOS) isoforms (NOS I, NOS II, and NOS III) was readily detected in the rat thyroid. After goiter formation was induced by thiouracil and a low iodine diet, there was increased expression of the genes encoding ET-related proteins (ET-1, 3.2-fold; ETA, 2.9-fold; ETB, 3.5-fold) as well as two of the three NOS isoforms (NOS I, 2.7-fold; NOS III, 4.9-fold). During iodide-induced involution, the ET-related mRNA levels remained elevated, whereas those of the two NOS isoforms returned to basal values. ET-converting enzyme, NOS II, and thyroglobulin mRNAs were minimally affected in this model, providing evidence for selective regulation of these genes. To assess whether NO plays a role in vascular changes during goiter formation, animals were treated with a NOS inhibitor, N-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (NAME). NOS activity in the thyroid was inhibited by more than 75% after treatment with NAME. Thyroid hormone and TSH levels were unchanged. Although NAME had little effect on overall thyroid size, vascular expansion during goiter formation was decreased by 36%. We conclude that the thyroid gland expresses a complex network of vasoactive genes whose expression is regulated dynamically during thyroid goiter formation and involution. NO production and probably other locally produced vasoactive substances are involved in changes in thyroid vascularization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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