Peter H.J., Gerber H., Studer H., et al.
Spontaneous feline hyperthyroidism is a unique experimental model of toxic nodular goiter. To determine whether feline toxic goiter is caused by extrathyroidal stimulating factors or by the intrinsic autonomy of follicular cells, primary cultures of enzymatically dissociated follicles from 15 hyperthyroid cat goiters and from 3 normal cat thyroid glands were embedded in collagen gels. Growth and function in chemically defined media were assessed by autoradiography after double labeling with 3H-thymidine and 131I-Na. Iodine organification in follicles from normal glands was TSH dependent, but intense radioiodine organification occurred in follicles from hyperfunctioning goiters even in the absence of TSH. Similarly, twice as many follicular cells of hyperfunctioning thyroid tissue, maintained without TSH in the medium, were labeled after exposure to 3H-thymidine than in follicles from normal glands. The results strongly suggest that intrinsic alterations of cell function lead to autonomy of follicular growth and function and subsequently to the development of hyperplastic nodules, causing thyrotoxicosis. The reason for the focal nature of the disease remains an unresolved challenge. Further investigation using this model may further understanding of the growth of autonomous endocrine tumors.