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Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1997 Apr;214(4):302-17.

Iodine metabolism and thyroid-related functions in organisms lacking thyroid follicles: are thyroid hormones also vitamins?

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Department of Zoology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.


Thyroid-related functions in organisms devoid of follicular thyroid tissue have been reviewed. In the lamprey, a primitive vertebrate, the larva concentrates iodide and synthesizes thyroid hormones (TH) by iodoperoxidase (IP)-mediated iodination of a thyroglobulin (TG)-like molecule in a subpharyngeal afollicular endostyle. The endostyle is the thyroid homolog, and it reorganizes into a follicular thyroid at metamorphosis to the adult. Ascidians and amphloxus, invertebrate protochordate relatives of vertebrates, also concentrate iodide and synthesize TH in a subpharyngeal afollicular endostyle, but the endostyle never transforms to follicles. Ascidian plasma contains L-thyroxine and its more biologically active derivative 3,5,3'-triiodo-L-thyronine, and TH receptors exist, but TH effects are poorly understood. No other invertebrates possess an endostyle. Several invertebrates concentrate iodide at other sites and form protein-incorporated iodohistidines and iodotyrosines; however, de novo iodothyronine biosynthesis through IP-mediated TG iodination has not been established. Nevertheless, TH occur in invertebrates, and exogenous iodothyrosines or iodothyronines have effects on jellyfish, insects, and sea urchins. Furthermore, gut bacteria metabolize TH, and plants may synthesize TH by nonenzymatic oxidative iodination. Thus, TH occur in many organisms and, after ingestion and enteric absorption, can enter the food chain. Indeed, sea urchin larvae obtain TH required to induce metamorphosis from plant diatoms. Thyroid hormones can therefore have vitamin-like effects and, in conjunction with vitamin D, and possibly with other steroids, may be more aptly termed vitamones. Availability of exogenous TH has implications for models of invertebrate and vertebrate TH metabolism and iodine salvaging, and it may explain the prominent and probable ancestral role of peripheral mechanisms in regulating thyroidal status.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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