We have studied whether, or not, tissue-specific regulatory mechanisms provide normal 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine (T3) concentrations simultaneously in all tissues of a hypothyroid animal receiving thyroxine (T4), an assumption implicit in the replacement therapy of hypothyroid patients with T4 alone. Thyroidectomized rats were infused with placebo or 1 of 10 T4 doses (0.2-8.0 micrograms per 100 grams of body weight per day). Placebo-infused intact rats served as controls. Plasma and 10 tissues were obtained after 12-13 d of infusion. Plasma thyrotropin and plasma and tissue T4 and T3 were determined by RIA. Iodothyronine-deiodinase activities were assayed using cerebral cortex, liver, and lung. No single dose of T4 was able to restore normal plasma thyrotropin, T4 and T3, as well as T4 and T3 in all tissues, or at least to restore T3 simultaneously in plasma and all tissues. Moreover, in most tissues, the dose of T4 needed to ensure normal T3 levels resulted in supraphysiological T4 concentrations. Notable exceptions were the cortex, brown adipose tissue, and cerebellum, which maintained T3 homeostasis over a wide range of plasma T4 and T3 levels. Deiodinase activities explained some, but not all, of the tissue-specific and dose related changes in tissue T3 concentrations. In conclusion, euthyroidism is not restored in plasma and all tissues of thyroidectomized rats on T4 alone. These results may well be pertinent to patients on T4 replacement therapy.
H F Escobar-Morreale, M J Obregón, F Escobar del Rey, G Morreale de Escobar