The nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse, a spontaneous animal model for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, displays a tendency in common with human diabetic populations to develop autoimmune thyroiditis although incidence and severity of thyroid lesions vary widely among different colonies around the world. A congenic strain of NOD mice bearing I-Ak on a NOD background (NOD-H2(h4)) has recently been derived and displays a much greater tendency to develop thyroiditis and autoantibodies to mouse thyroglobulin (MTg) although it is free of diabetes. Both thyroid infiltrates and autoantibody formation are accelerated and enhanced in NOD-H2(h4) mice by increased iodine intake. The effect of increased iodine intake on NOD mice themselves has not been directly investigated although a recent study of these animals given high or low doses of iodine showed no follicular destruction unless the mice were first rendered goitrous by iodine deprivation. We found that dietary iodine increased both the incidence and the severity of thyroid lesions in our NOD mice although autoantibodies to MTg were absent. NOD background genes appear to be essential for the development of these lesions, which were maximal after 4 weeks of iodine administration and showed no significant regression when the iodine was stopped. Furthermore, our studies show for the first time that both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells are necessary for the development of this accelerated but essentially spontaneous murine thyroid disease.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.