Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is a major vasoconstrictor peptide, first found in endothelial cells, and later in many other tissues, including the thyroid gland. We analysed the expression of the ET-1 gene in the rat thyroid gland and changes in ET-1 mRNA and peptide levels in goiter development and involution, two circumstances characterised by vascular changes.
Thyroid hyperplasia was induced in adult Wistar rats by feeding a low iodine diet (LID) supplemented with 0·25% thiouracil for 10 days, and LID alone for 2 further days (H.12 group). Involution was induced by injecting 100 μg iodide and refeeding a normal diet during 6 h, 12 h, and 24 h (I.6h, I.12h, 1.24 h groups). Rats fed a normal iodine diet were used as controls.
A specific 488 bp cDNA corresponding to the known sequence of pre-pro ET-1 was found by RT-PCR from RNA extracts in all thyroid experimental groups, as well as in lung and kidney which were used as positive controls. RP-HPLC analysis showed that ET-1 immunoreactivity eluted similarly as mature ET-1
During hyperplasia, ET-1 mRNA and peptide levels were increased 3·5- and 5-fold respectively. The relative volume of the vascular bed was more than doubled. During iodide-induced involution, the glandular ET-1 mRNA level remained elevated. The concentration of ET-1 peptide increased and was significantly greater at 12 h involution than in the H.12 group. At this time, the capillary reticulum reverted to individual capillaries and the vascular bed was significantly reduced.
These data demonstrate that the ET-1 gene is expressed in the rat thyroid gland and that the ET-1 mRNA and peptide levels are increased during thyroid hyperplasia and remain elevated during a phase of rapid iodide-induced involution. These data suggest that changes in ET-1 production may play a role in control of thyroid gland trophic regulation and vascularity.