The effects of the vitamins dl-alpha-tocopherol, ascorbic acid and beta-carotene, free radical scavengers and lipid peroxidation inhibitors, were analyzed in male Wistar rats made goitrous by feeding a low iodine diet (< 20 micrograms iodine/kg) and perchlorate (1% in drinking water) for 4, 8, 16, and 32 days. Groups of control or goitrous rats received for at least 16 days before killing a diet containing 0.6% vitamin E (as dl-alpha-tocopherol acetate), 1.2% vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and 0.48% beta-carotene, either simultaneously (vitamin cocktail) or separately. This treatment led to a 5-fold increase of vitamin E in the thyroid gland, a 24-fold increase in the liver and a 3-fold increase in the plasma. In control rats, vitamin cocktail administration increased slightly the thyroid weight with little changes in thyroid function parameters. During iodine deficiency, administration of the vitamin cocktail or vitamin E alone reduced significantly the rate of increase in thyroid weight, and DNA and protein contents, as well as the proportion of [3H]thymidine labeled thyroid follicular cells, but not that of labeled endothelial cells. Plasma tri-iodothyronine, thyroxine, TSH levels, thyroid iodine content and concentration as well as relative volumes of glandular compartments were not modified. The proportion of necrotic cells rose from 0.5% in normal animals to about 2% after 16 days of goiter development. No significant protective effect of the vitamins was observed. These results suggest that these vitamins, particularly vitamin E, modulate one of the regulatory cascades involved in the control of thyroid follicular cell growth, without interfering with the proliferation of endothelial cells.
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