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Concentrations of thyroid hormones and iodothyronine binding proteins in serum of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

 

Veronica J. Lawson1, Andrea J. Curtis2, Valdo P. Michelangeli3, Jan R. Stockigt2, Frank N. Carrick1, John W. Barlow2,4

 

1Koala Study Program, Department of Zoology, University of Queensland, Queensland 4072
2Ewen Downie Metabolic Unit and Monash University Department of Medicine, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria 31 81
3Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Victoria 3050
4Author for correspondence

 

ABSTRACT
Objective To examine circulating total and free thyroid hormone (T3 and T4) concentrations, determine serum iodothyronine binding characteristics and estimate thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) activity in sera of coastal and inland koalas.
Design A prospective study.
Procedure Koala serum T3 and T4 were measured by radioimmunoassay. T4 binding parameters were determined by radioligand binding and electrophoresis. Koala TSH values were determined by bioassay.
Results Mean total T4 concentrations were 3.2 ± 2.1 nM although values were significantly higher in inland-dwelling females in comparison to coastal-dwelling males. Free T4 was 3.3 ± 2.1 pM. Total and free T3 were 0.4 ± 0.2 nM and 1.4 ± 10.9 pM respectively, although these values were at the lower end of the assay detection limit and should be viewed with reservation. Electrophoresis of [125l]-T4-labelled serum revealed only two proteins of electrophoretic mobility similar to human transthyretin (TTR) and albumin. Scatchard analysis of T4 binding to serum gave a curvilinear plot, which could be resolved into two binding sites with affinities identical to that of TTR and albumin but both of low concentration. The bioactivity of the TSH present in the sera was measured using a cell line (JPO9) transfected with the human TSH receptor. The mean level of stimulation found in the sera corresponded to a bovine TSH activity of less than 10 mU/L.
Conclusion These results suggest that the serum concentrations of free and total thyroid hormones in koalas are low compared to other marsupials and very low compared to eutherian mammals. The mechanism of maintenance of euthyroidism in this species remains to be determined.

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