Pearl millet [Pennisetum millet (L.) leeke] is the main source of food energy for the rural poor in many areas of the semiarid tropics. Epidemiological evidence suggests that millet may play a role in the genesis of endemic goiter in these areas, and sparse experimental data in rats support this suspicion. This study was undertaken to determine in vivo in rats and in vitro using porcine thyroid slices and a thyroid peroxidase (TPO) assay the goitrogenic and antithyroid effects of millet diets, extracts of millet, and certain pure compounds contained therein. For use in these studies, whole grain millet was progressively dehulled to yield successively four bran and four flour fractions in which direct analyses revealed progressively lower concentrations of C-glycosylflavones. In vivo feeding of bran fraction 1, that richest in C-glycosylflavones, led to a significant increase in thyroid weight and antithyroid effects. Feeding of bran fraction 2, the next richest in C-glycosylflavones, produced similar, but less marked, changes. In vitro studies of 125I metabolism using porcine thyroid slices indicated that extracts of bran fractions 1 and 2 were most potent, producing changes similar to those produced by methimazole (MMI). At a concentration of 60 mumol/L, glucosylvitexin, the major C-glycosylflavone present in millet, had effects comparable to those of 1 mumol/L MMI. Similarly, in studies of porcine TPO, extracts of bran fraction 1 caused pronounced (85%) inhibition of enzyme activity, and progressively less inhibition was induced by extracts of bran fractions 2, 3, and 4. Overall, the TPO-inhibiting activities of the various millet fractions closely correlated with their C-glycosylflavone concentrations. Three C-glycosylflavones present concentrations. Three C-glycosylflavones present in millet, glucosylvitexin, glycosylorientin, and vitexin, also inhibited TPO activity. Thus, in vivo and in vitro studies revealed that millet diets rich in C-glycosylflavones produce goitrogenic and antithyroid effects similar to those of certain other antithyroid agents and small doses of MMI. We conclude that in areas of iodine deficiency in which millet is a major component of the diet, its ingestion may contribute to the genesis of endemic goiter.