Thyroid hormone [triiodothyronine (T3)] has been shown to play a critical role in the growth and maturation of the mammalian small intestine, but its mechanism of action has not been well studied. In the current study, an animal model of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism was used to study the effects of T3 on the small intestine. Adult rats were treated with propylthiouracil for a 6-week period and then given injections of either saline (hypothyroid) or 30 μg/100 g body wt of T3 (hyperthyroid). Northern blot analyses showed marked differential regulation of brush border enzyme gene expression. Lactase messenger RNA (mRNA) levels decreased approximately 75% along the length of the small intestine, whereas sucrase levels were unchanged. The intestinal alkaline phosphatase mRNA species were upregulated by T3, especially the 3-kilobase band, which increased most dramatically in jejunum. Further experiments showed significant levels of both the α-1 and β-1 T3 receptor mRNAs within the small intestinal mucosa. Histological examination showed that T3 treatment causes marked villus hyperplasia throughout the length of the small intestine. These results provide insight into the mechanism by which T3 exerts its influence on the growth and differentiation of the intestinal epithelium.
ASJC Scopus subject areas