Radioiodide induces apoptosis in human thyroid tissue in culture

Eleonora Russo, Anna Guerra, Vincenzo Marotta, Antongiulio Faggiano, Annamaria Colao, Silvana Del Vecchio, Massimo Tonacchera, Mario Vitale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Radioiodide (131I) is routinely used for the treatment of toxic adenoma, Graves' disease, and for ablation of thyroid remnant after thyroidectomy in patients with thyroid cancer. The toxic effects of ionizing radiations on living cells can be mediated by a necrotic and/or apoptotic process. The involvement of apoptosis in radiation-induced cell death in the thyrocytes has been questioned. The knowledge of the mechanisms that underlie the thyrocyte death in response to radiations can help to achieve a successful treatment with the lowest 131I dose. We developed a method to study the effects of 131I in human thyroid tissue in culture, by which we demonstrated that 131I induces thyroid cell apoptosis. Human thyroid tissues of about 1 mm3 were cultured in vitro and cell viability was determined up to 3 weeks by the MTT assay. Radioiodide added to the culture medium was actively taken up by the tissues. The occurrence of apoptosis in the thyrocytes was assessed by measuring the production of a caspase-cleavage fragment of cytokeratin 18 (M30) by an enzyme-linked immunoassay. Neither variation of cell number nor spontaneous apoptosis was revealed after 1 week of culture. 131I added to the culture medium induced a dose-dependent and a time-dependent generation of M30 fragment. The apoptotic process was confirmed by the generation of caspase-3 and PARP cleavage products. These results demonstrate that 131I induces apoptosis in human thyrocytes. Human thyroid tissue cultures may be useful to investigate the cell death pathways induced by 131I.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-734
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Apoptosis
  • Radioiodide therapy
  • Thyroid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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