To elucidate the pathogenesis of thyroid gland hypervascularity in patients with Graves' disease, we studied the expression of mRNAs for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptor, Flt family, using human thyroid follicles in vitro and thiouracil-fed rats in vivo. Human thyroid follicles, cultured in the absence of endothelial cells, secreted de novo-synthesized thyroid hormone in response to thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and Graves' IgG. The thyroid follicles produced VEGF mRNA but not flt-1 mRNA. The expression of VEGF mRNA was enhanced by insulin, tumor-promoting phorbol ester, calcium ionophore, dibutyryl cAMP, TSH, and Graves' IgG. When rats were fed thiouracil for 4 wk, their serum levels of TSH were increased at day 3. VEGF mRNA was also increased on day 3, accompanied by an increase in flt family (flt-1 and KDR/ flk-1) mRNA expression. These in vitro and in vivo findings suggest that VEGF is produced by thyroid follicles in response to stimulators of TSH receptors, via the protein kinase A and C pathways. VEGF, a secretable angiogenesis factor, subsequently stimulates Flt receptors on endothelial cells in a paracrine manner, leading to their proliferation and producing hypervascularity of the thyroid gland, as seen in patients with Graves' disease.


K Sato, K Yamazaki, K Shizume, Y Kanaji, T Obara, K Ohsumi, H Demura, S Yamaguchi, M Shibuya


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