When thyroglobulin (Tg) is endocytosed by thyrocytes and transported to lysosomes, thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) are released. However, some internalized Tg is transcytosed intact into the bloodstream, thereby avoiding proteolytic cleavage. Here we show that megalin (gp330), a Tg receptor on thyroid cells, plays a role in Tg transcytosis. Following incubation with exogenous rat Tg at 37 °C, Fisher rat thyroid (FRTL-5) cells, a differentiated thyroid cell line, released T3 into the medium. However, when cells were incubated with Tg plus either of two megalin competitors, T3 release was increased, suggesting that Tg internalized by megalin bypassed the lysosomal pathway, possibly with release of undegraded Tg from cells. To assess this possibility, we performed experiments in which FRTL-5 cells were incubated with either unlabeled or 125I-labeled Tg at 37 °C to allow internalization, treated with heparin to remove cell surface-bound Tg, and further incubated at 37 °C to allow Tg release. Intact 330-kDa Tg was released into the medium, and the amount released was markedly reduced by megalin competitors. To investigate whether Tg release resulted from transcytosis, we studied FRTL-5 cells cultured as polarized layers with tight junctions on permeable filters in the upper chamber of dual chambered devices. Following the addition of Tg to the upper chamber and incubation at 37 °C, intact 330-kDa Tg was found in fluids collected from the lower chamber. The amount recovered was markedly reduced by megalin competitors, indicating that megalin mediates Tg transcytosis. We also studied Tg transcytosis in vivo, using a rat model of goiter induced by aminotriazole, in which increased release of thyrotropin induces massive colloid endocytosis. This was associated with increased megalin expression on thyrocytes and increased serum Tg levels, with reduced serum T3 levels, supporting the conclusion that megalin mediates Tg transcytosis. Tg transcytosis is a novel function of megalin, which usually transports ligands to lysosomes. Megalin-mediated transcytosis may regulate the extent of thyroid hormone release.
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