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F Bogazzi, L Bartalena, S Brogioni, A Burelli, L Manetti, ML Tanda, M Gasperi and E Martino

OBJECTIVE: Thyroid blood flow is greatly enhanced in untreated Graves' disease, but it is not known whether it is due to thyroid hormone excess or to thyroid hyperstimulation by TSH-receptor antibody. To address this issue in vivo patients with different thyroid disorders were submitted to color flow doppler sonography (CFDS). SUBJECTS AND METHODS: We investigated 24 normal subjects, and 78 patients with untreated hyperthyroidism (49 with Graves' hyperthyroidism, 24 with toxic adenoma, and 5 patients with TSH-secreting pituitary adenoma (TSHoma)), 19 patients with thyrotoxicosis (7 with thyrotoxicosis factitia, and 12 with subacute thyroiditis), 37 euthyroid patients with goitrous Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and 21 untreated hypothyroid patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis. RESULTS: Normal subjects had CFDS pattern 0 (absent or minimal intraparenchimal spots) and mean intraparenchimal peak systolic velocity (PSV) of 4.8+/-1.2cm/s. Patients with spontaneous hyperthyroidism due to Graves' disease, TSHoma, and toxic adenoma had significantly increased PSV (P<0.0001, P=0.0004, P<0.0001 respectively vs controls) and CFDS pattern. Patients with Graves' disease had CFDS pattern II (mild increase of color flow doppler signal) in 10 (20%) and pattern III (marked increase) in 39 cases (80%). Mean PSV was 15+/-3cm/s. Patients with toxic adenoma had CFDS pattern I (presence of parenchymal blood flow with patchy uneven distribution) in 2 (8%), pattern II in 16 (70%) and pattern III in 5 (22%). Mean PSV was 11+/-2.4cm/s. Patients with TSHoma showed CFDS pattern I in one case (20%) and pattern II in 4 (80%). Mean PSV was 14.8+/-4.2cm/s. Patients with thyrotoxicosis had normal PSV (4.2+/-1. 1cm/s in subacute thyroiditis, 4+/-0.8cm/s in thyrotoxicosis factitia, P=not significant vs controls) and CFDS pattern 0. Untreated euthyroid patients with goitrous Hashimoto's thyroiditis had CFDS pattern 0, and mean PSV (4.3+/-0.9cm/s; P=not significant vs controls). Untreated hypothyroid patients with goitrous Hashimoto's thyroiditis had CFDS pattern I in 14 cases (67%), pattern II in 4 (19%) and pattern 0 in 3 (14%) and mean PSV (5.6+/-1. 4cm/s) was higher than that of controls (P=0.026). CONCLUSIONS: An increase in both intrathyroidal vascularity and blood velocity was observed in patients with spontaneous hyperthyroidism but not in thyrotoxicosis due to either ingestion of thyroid hormones or to a thyroidal destructive process. The slightly increased vascularity and blood velocity observed in patients with hypothyroid Hashimoto's thyroiditis suggests that thyroid stimulation by either TSH-receptor antibody or TSH is responsible for the increased thyroid blood flow.

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F Bogazzi, L Bartalena, S Brogioni, A Burelli, F Raggi, F Ultimieri, C Cosci, M Vitale, G Fenzi and E Martino

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the molecular mechanisms of the inhibitory effects of amiodarone and its active metabolite, desethylamiodarone (DEA) on thyroid hormone action. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The reporter construct ME-TRE-TK-CAT or TSHbeta-TRE-TK-CAT, containing the nucleotide sequence of the thyroid hormone response element (TRE) of either malic enzyme (ME) or TSHbeta genes, thymidine kinase (TK) and chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) was transiently transfected with RSV-TRbeta into NIH3T3 cells. Gel mobility shift assay (EMSA) was performed using labelled synthetic oligonucleotides containing the ME-TRE and in vitro translated thyroid hormone receptor (TR)beta. RESULTS: Addition of 1 micromol/l T4 or T3 to the culture medium increased the basal level of ME-TRE-TK-CAT by 4.5- and 12.5-fold respectively. Amiodarone or DEA (1 micromol/l) increased CAT activity by 1.4- and 3.4-fold respectively. Combination of DEA with T4 or T3 increased CAT activity by 9.4- and 18.9-fold respectively. These data suggested that DEA, but not amiodarone, had a synergistic effect with thyroid hormone on ME-TRE, rather than the postulated inhibitory action; we supposed that this was due to overexpression of the transfected TR into the cells. When the amount of RSV-TRbeta was reduced until it was present in a limited amount, allowing competition between thyroid hormone and the drug, addition of 1 micromol/l DEA decreased the T3-dependent expression of the reporter gene by 50%. The inhibitory effect of DEA was partially due to a reduced binding of TR to ME-TRE, as assessed by EMSA. DEA activated the TR-dependent down-regulation by the negative TSH-TRE, although at low level (35% of the down-regulation produced by T3), whereas amiodarone was ineffective. Addition of 1 micromol/l DEA to T3-containing medium reduced the T3-TR-mediated down-regulation of TSH-TRE to 55%. CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that DEA, but not amiodarone, exerts a direct, although weak, effect on genes that are regulated by thyroid hormone. High concentrations of DEA antagonize the action of T3 at the molecular level, interacting with TR and reducing its binding to TREs. This effect may contribute to the hypothyroid-like effect observed in peripheral tissues of patients receiving amiodarone treatment.