Thyroid Hormone Affects Secretory Activity and Uncoupling Protein-3 Expression in Rat Harderian Gland

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The effects of T3 administration on the rat Harderian gland were examined at morphological, biochemical, and molecular levels. T3 induced hypertrophy of the two cell types (A and B) present in the glandular epithelium. In type A cells, the hypertrophy was mainly due to an increase in the size of the lipid compartment. The acinar lumina were filled with lipoproteic substances, and the cells often showed an olocrine secretory pattern. In type B cells, the hypertrophy largely consisted of a marked proliferation of mitochondria endowed with tightly packed cristae, the mitochondrial number being nearly doubled (from 62 to 101/100 μm2). Although the average area of individual mitochondria decreased by about 50%, the total area of the mitochondrial compartment increased by about 80% (from 11 to 19/100 μm2). This could be ascribed to T3-induced mitochondrial proliferation. The morphological and morphometric data correlated well with our biochemical results, which indicated that mitochondrial respiratory activity is increased in hyperthyroid rats. T3, by influencing the metabolic function of the mitochondrial compartment, induces lipogenesis and the release of secretory product by type A cells. Mitochondrial uncoupling proteins 2 and 3 were expressed at both mRNA and protein levels in the euthyroid rat Harderian gland. T3 treatment increased the mRNA levels of both uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) and UCP3, but the protein level only of UCP3. A possible role for these proteins in the Harderian gland is discussed.

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