The effect of thyroid hormone on maturation of fetal rabbit lung was studied with maternal treatment using 3,5-dimethyl-3'-isopropyl-L-thyronine (DIMIT), a synthetic analogue of triiodothyronine. To investigate the in vivo kinetics and distribution of DIMIT, we prepared [3H]DIMIT and injected both pregnant rats (18-21 d gestation) and rabbits (25 d gestation). In the rat, maximal concentrations of radioactivity in maternal plasma, fetal plasma, and amniotic fluid occurred within 10 min, 1-2 h, and 4-6 h, respectively, after intramuscular injection. After 7 h the concentration of radioactivity in fetal plasma was 163 and 71% of the maternal level in rats and rabbits, respectively, indicating that DIMIT readily crosses the placenta. We treated pregnant rabbits for 1-2 d with DIMIT in doses of 0.5-3 mg/kg per d and examined the fetuses at 26 and 27 d gestation. Treatment did not affect fetal growth or viability. In fetal liver, DIMIT increased the activity of NADPH cytochromeac reductase by 64% and decreased the glycogen content by 73% compared to controls. The rate of choline incorporation by lung minces increased in dose-dependent manner to a maximum of +104% at 3 mg/kg DIMIT; this does stimulated by 38% the activity of lung phosphatidic acid phosphatase (PAPase), a corticosteroid-responsive enzyme, but there was no increase in tissue PAPase activity at most lower doses of DIMIT that enhanced choline incorporation. Treated lungs had 38% less glycogen tha controls, but there was no effect on tissue levels of DNA, protein, or phospholipid. DIMIT treatment increased the amount of total phospholipid (+163%). saturated phosphatidylcholine (+330%), and PAPase activity (+134%) in lung lavage fluid. The DIMIT effects on both choline incorporation by lung minces and phospholipid content of lavage fluid were substantially greater than what had occurred with an optimal dose of betamethasone. DIMIT also increased corticosteroid binding capacity in fetal plasma and produced a dose-dependent increase (maximal threefold) in total and free corticoids of both maternal and fetal plasma. It is estimated that elevated endogenous corticoids probably account for less than one-third of the increases in phospholipid synthesis and secretion observed at the higher doses of DIMIT. These data indicate that administration of DIMIT to pregnant rabbits accelertes maturation of the surfactant system in fetal lung. The magnitude of the effects on phospholipid synthesis and secretion, along with the minimal effect of PAPase activity in fetal lung tissue, suggest that thyroid hormones affect different biochemical processes from those influenced by glucocorticoids.
P L Ballard, B J Benson, A Brehier, J P Carter, B M Kriz, E C Jorgensen