The effects of the tri-iodothyronine (T(3)) secreted by thyroid cells on the growth of the thyrocyte are poorly known. In this study we analyzed the effects of T(3) on the proliferation of bovine thyroid follicles in primary culture previously depleted of endogenous T(3). Cellular deoxiribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis, determined by [(3)H]thymidine incorporation, was stimulated by T(3) (0.1-5.0 nM) for 24 h in a concentration-dependent fashion with a maximal effect at 1.0 nM T(3) (P<0.01). This T(3) action was time-dependent when assayed from 12 to 72 h. The induction of mitogenic activity was corroborated by the increase in proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) measured by Western blot analysis. PCNA increased after treatment with T(3) (0.1-5.0 nM) in a concentration-dependent manner. Since T(3) modifies the activity of growth factors whose actions are mainly mediated by tyrosine kinase (TK) activation in diverse cellular types, we assayed the effects of genistein, a general TK inhibitor, and tyrphostin A25, a specific epidermal growth factor (EGF)-receptor (EGFR)-dependent TK activity inhibitor, on the proliferative effects of T(3). The T(3)-induced [(3)H]thymidine incorporation was inhibited by both agents in a concentration-dependent manner. A significant increase in the total TK activity measured in cellular protein extracts was induced by 0.5 and 1.0 nM T(3) (P<0.001). Tyrosine phosphorylation of the EGFR was also stimulated by T(3) (P<0.001) with no change in the EGFR expression as determined by Western blot analysis. Both, the T(3)-stimulated [(3)H]thymidine incorporation and the TK activity were inhibited by a anti-mouse EGF antibody. These results lead us to propose that T(3) could operate as a proliferative agent in bovine thyroid cells through a mechanism involving an autocrine/paracrine EGF/EGFR-dependent regulation.
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