The effects of iodide and thyroxine (T4) on female mice fed a low iodine diet (LID) for 8 weeks were analysed by morphological, stereological and biochemical methods. Iodide was given at a dose of 10 μg/day (HID) or 1 μg/day (MID), either alone or together with daily injections of 1 μg T4 for 8 or 40 days.
With HID, the thyroid weight and the numbers of follicles and cells remained higher than in controls, although cell necrosis occurred. Colloid volume increased and iodine was stored within the gland: a colloid goitre with non-functioning follicles was produced. With MID, the glands resumed an almost normal appearance. With T4 and LID, progressive normalization occurred, but after 40 days thyroid weight and numbers of follicles and cells remained higher than in controls. Glandular iodine content slowly increased and reached control value. The proportions of 125I-labelled tri-iodothyronine (T3) and T4 in thyroglobulin were reduced. With T4 and HID, the glands resumed a normal appearance. Neither necrosis nor folliculoneogenesis was noted. The proportions of 125I-labelled T3 and T4 in thyroglobulin were reduced, but T3 and T4 serum levels were higher than with HID. With T4 and MID, a normal state was obtained as early as day 8. After 40 days the gland was morphologically and functionally inactive.
In conclusion, the association of T4 and iodide seems to be the best way to obtain a rapid and complete involution of thyroid hyperplasia. The administration of T4 prevents the deleterious effects of an excess of iodine on follicular cells, and causes the gland to enter a slow-functioning state.