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U. Bürgi, B. R. Scazziga, P. O. Rosselet, H. Bürgi and H. Studer

Abstract. Serum thyroglobulin and goitre size were followed in 22 patients with simple goitre or single thyroid nodules during 9 months of thyroxine therapy, to see whether alterations in serum thyroglobulin correlated with changes in goitre size. In the case of such a correlation serum thyroglobulin could be used to predict which goitres respond to thyroxine therapy and which require surgery. Pretreatment serum thyroglobulin was elevated in 11 patients. It normalized in one of 7 patients whose goitre did not shrink and in none of the 4 patients whose goitre shrank during thyroxine treatment. Thus no simple correlation exists between alterations in serum thyroglobulin and goitre size during short-term thyroxine therapy. Since other studies suggest that increased serum thyroglobulin indicates ongoing goitre growth, thyroxine treatment might have been unsuccessful in all patients with persistently elevated serum thyroglobulin with a longer follow-up. The presence of predominantly thyroxine responsive tissue together with some autonomously growing, thyroglobulin-releasing areas in the same goitre could explain the failure of serum thyroglobulin to normalize in patients whose goitre shrank during therapy. The study shows that after eradication of iodine deficiency, thyroxine treatment is rarely successful in the Swiss goitre population and that surgical treatment is usually required.

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A. Radvila, R. Roost, H. Bürgi, H. Kohler and H. Studer


Lithium and excess iodide inhibit the release of thyroid hormone from preformed stores. We thus tested the hypothesis that this was due to an inhibition of thyroglobulin breakdown. Rats were pre-treated with propylthiouracil (PTU) for 3 weeks in order to deplete their thyroids of thyroglobulin. While the PTU was continued, lithium chloride (0.25 mEq./100 g weight) or potassium iodide (3 mg per rat) were injected every 12 h for 3 days. Thereafter the thyroglobulin content in thyroid gland homogenates was measured. PTU pre-treatment lowered the thyroglobulin content from 4.21 to 0.22 mg/100 mg gland. Lithium caused a marked re-accumulation of thyroglobulin to 0.60 mg/100 mg within 3 days. While iodide alone had only a borderline effect, it markedly potentiated the action of lithium and a combination of the two drugs increased the thyroglobulin content to 1.04 mg/100 mg.

Thyroxine was injected into similarly pre-treated animals to suppress secretion of thyrotrophic hormone. This markedly inhibited the proteolysis of thyroglobulin and 1.3 mg/100 mg gland accumulated after 3 days. Excess iodide, given in addition to thyroxine, decreased the amount of thyroglobulin accumulated to 0.75 mg/100 mg gland. To study whether this could be explained by an inhibitory action of iodide on thyroglobulin biosynthesis, thyroid glands from animals treated with excess iodide were incubated in vitro in the presence of 0.2 mm iodide for 3 h. Iodide decreased the incorporation of radioactive leucine into total thyroidal protein and into thyroglobulin by 25 and 35 % respectively. Iodide did not inhibit protein synthesis in the kidney, liver or muscle tissue. Thus, large doses of iodide selectively inhibit thyroglobulin biosynthesis.

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H Burgi, L Portmann, J Podoba, F Vertongen and M Srbecky

Salt iodine content in Switzerland was raised from 7.5 to 15 mg per kg in 1980, and since then dietary iodine intake has been considered to be sufficient, even though a slight decrease due to imported food has recently been reported. The aim of this study was to establish normal values for thyroid volumes of school children who can be assumed to have had a sufficient iodine intake all their lifetime. Moreover. the present investigation was undertaken to verify that iodine sufficiency had been achieved equally in two regions each served by one of the two Swiss salt producers. Mean iodine concentration in urine spot samples from school children was 16.1 microg/dl, and it was identical in both the city of Lausanne (n=215) and the city of Solothurn (n=208). Thus it can be stated that in both cities (served by two different salt producers) iodine intake is equal and sufficient. Accordingly, thyroid volumes measured by ultrasound in school children aged 6 to 16 years were the same in both Lausanne (n=202) and Solothurn (n=207). Moreover, the age-adjusted median volumes at the 97th percentiles closely agree with and validate provisional international reference values recently proposed by the World Health Organisation and by the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disease.

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H. Studer, H. Bürgi, H. Kohler, M. C. García and G. Morreale de Escobar


Small doses of iodide (2 times 3.2 μg at 12 h interval), below those capable of inducing Wolff-Chaikoff effect, were injected into rats kept on a moderately low iodine diet. By means of a 125I equilibration technique as well as by direct measurement of cold T4, it was demonstrated that the level of circulating PB125I (representing iodothyronines as confirmed by column chromatography) increased by a mean of 40% within 24 h following the first iodide injection. The serum TSH concentration (measured by radioimmunoassay) was simultaneously depressed.

Thus, in stimulated thyroid glands, a biologically significant fraction of an iodide load escapes autoregulatory control of iodothyronine synthesis. A small, transient increase of hormone release is likely to represent the physiological response of a normal gland to a sudden supplement of iodide supply. The ensuing depression of TSH secretion may be necessary for final adjustment of thyroid function. It is considered to be the last step in a cascade of mechanisms whose interaction keeps the thyroidal hormone output within narrow limits in the face of a fluctuating iodide supply. Failure of one or several of these mechanisms in the goitrous human gland could conceivable explain the phenomenon of "Jod Basedow".

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E. Miloni, H. Bürgi, H. Studer, L. Siebenhüner and Th. Lemarchand-Béraud

Abstract. Naturally occurring euthyroid goitres in man and goitres produced in experimental animals by iodine deficiency or goitrogen feeding both have in common a thyroglobulin of low iodine content. The latter experimental goitres are always depleted of colloid and thyroglobulin. In contrast, natural goitres often contain excessive amounts of colloid which may accumulate because of endocytosis becoming refractory to TSH. We tested the hypothesis that minute doses of goitrogens could lower the iodine content of thyroglobulin without colloid depletion. We then examined whether such a low-dose 'classical' goitrogen could induce excessive colloid storage rather than depletion if acting in concert with lithium, a cation which blocks endocytosis.

Rats on an adequate iodine intake were fed minimal doses of methimazole either alone or combined with lithium chloride. Chronic minimal-dose methimazole treatment lowered the iodine content of thyroglobulin without changing thyroglobulin content and thyroid weight. In contrast, addition of lithium to methimazole, produced goitres containing supranormal amounts of poorly iodinated thyroglobulin. We conclude that borderline doses of goitrogens can lower iodination of thyroglobulin without causing hyperplasia and colloid depletion. Thyroglobulin-rich goitres can be obtained by adding a second goitrogen which inhibits endocytosis. As an alternative to Marine's hypothesis of colloid goitre formation we suggest that inhibition of endocytosis, e g by goitrogens of the lithium type, could cause colloid and thyroglobulin accumulation in human iodine deficiency goitre.