In vitro pituitary and thyroid cell proliferation assays and their relevance as alternatives to animal testing

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Barae Jomaa , Jac M. M. J. G. Aarts, Laura H. J. de Haan, Ad A. C. M. Peijnenburg, Toine Bovee, Albertinka J. Murk, Ivonne M. C. M. Rietjens
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This study investigates the in vitro effect of eleven thyroid-active compounds known to affect pituitary and/or thyroid weights in vivo, using the proliferation of GH3 rat pituitary cells in the so-called “T-screen,” and of FRTL-5 rat thyroid cells in a newly developed test denoted “TSH-screen” to gain insight into the relative value of these in vitro proliferation tests for an integrated testing strategy (ITS) for thyroid activity. Pituitary cell proliferation in the T-screen was stimulated by three out of eleven tested compounds, namely thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH), triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Of these three compounds, only T4 causes an increase in relative pituitary weight, and thus T4 was the only compound for which the effect in the in vitro assay correlated with a reported in vivo effect. As to the newly developed TSH-screen, two compounds had an effect, namely, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) induced and T4 antagonized FRTL-5 cell proliferation. These effects correlated with in vivo changes induced by these compounds on thyroid weight. Altogether, the results indicate that most of the selected compounds affect pituitary and thyroid weights by modes of action different from a direct thyroid hormone receptor (THR) or TSH receptor (TSHR)-mediated effect, and point to the need for additional in vitro tests for an ITS. Additional analysis of the T-screen revealed a positive correlation between the THR-mediated effects of the tested compounds in vitro and their effects on relative heart weight in vivo, suggesting that the T-screen may directly predict this THR-mediated in vivo adverse effect.

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Jomaa, B., Aarts, J. M. M. J. G., de Haan, L. H. J., Peijnenburg, A. A. C. M., Bovee, T., Murk, A. J. and Rietjens, I. M. C. M. (2013) “In vitro pituitary and thyroid cell proliferation assays and their relevance as alternatives to animal testing”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 30(3), pp. 293–307. doi: 10.14573/altex.2013.3.293.

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