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Endocrinology. 1993 Jun;132(6):2645-53.

Thyroglobulin molecules internalized by thyrocytes are sorted in early endosomes and partially recycled back to the follicular lumen.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U 197, Faculté de Médecine Alexis Carrel, Lyon, France.


Thyroglobulin (Tg) molecules stored in thyroid follicle lumens are heterogeneous in terms of iodine and hormone contents. It has been suggested that thyroid hormone is preferentially produced from the most highly iodinated Tg molecules and that thyrocytes are capable of selecting these molecules. The cellular localization as well as the molecular basis of such a selection process are not known. The present work was undertaken to determine whether there is selectivity at the step of endocytosis and, if not, to discover other possible mechanisms. Studies were conducted on reconstituted thyroid follicles (RTF) in culture. We compared the ability of thyrocytes to internalize Tg and an exogenous protein, BSA, which is neither iodinated nor glycosylated. To identify the protein, Tg and BSA were coupled to gold particles of different size and microinjected in a fixed ratio into the lumen of RTF. Neither of the two protein gold probes detected by transmission electron microscope bound at the cell surface, and both entered the cells at a similar rate and were concentrated in early endosomes. After 20 min, both Tg-G and BSA-G were segregated into distinct vacuolar structures. At 60 min, the intracellular content of BSA-G (mainly in prelysosomes and lysosomes) was 2- to 3-fold higher than that of Tg-G. At the same time, there was a marked reduction in the BSA-G/Tg-G ratio in the lumen. The differences between the Tg-G and BSA-G distribution patterns that were amplified in TSH-treated RTF are in keeping with a back-transfer of internalized Tg toward the lumen. The existence of a cell to lumen transport of previously endocytosed Tg was further documented using intralumenal [125I]Tg as a marker. RTF pulse labeled with tracer amounts of [125I]iodide were shortly incubated with TSH to induce [125I]Tg endocytosis, and the fate of internalized [125I] Tg was studied in a chase incubation period of up to 4 h. At 20 C, where the degradation of internalized Tg is blocked, we observed a time-dependent decrease in intracellular [125I]Tg and a corresponding increase in the lumenal [125I]Tg content. This cell to lumen [125I]Tg transfer was inhibited by primaquine. In conclusion, our data show that 1) the thyroid apical endocytic process does not exhibit selectivity for Tg; 2) the thyrocyte possesses a sorting machinery for endocytosed ligands; and 3) internalized Tg molecules can be recycled back to the follicular lumen.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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