The role of thyroid hormone in the pulmonary repair process following chloride-induced acute injury, was assessed in the present study. Thyroidectomized (Thyx), male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed by inhalation to cadmium chloride aerosol (CdCl2, 10 mg/m3). Rats were sacrificed 1 hr after [3H]thymidine (3H-T) injection at intervals up to 10 days after exposure. Thyroidectomy, followed by CdCl2, produced earlier and more severe acute injury in the form of alveolar hemorrhage edema and hyaline membrane formation, than CdCl2 alone. However, Type 2 cell hyperplasia was markedly reduced in this group of rats compared with CdCl2 controls. Uptake of 3H-T by Thyx-CdCl2 lung tissue was only 40% of that measured in CdCl2 controls. Autoradiographic studies indicated that Type 2 cell labeling was less than 66% of controls up to 3 days after exposure. Cells obtained by lung lavage of Thyx-CdCl2 rats were reduced in number up to 60% with respect to controls, during the first week after exposure. Additionally, the activities of lung antioxidant enzymes (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase were significantly inhibited (45-55%) throughout the experiment in Thyx-CdCl2 animals compared with normal rats. In summary, thyroidectomy impairs the repair response in CdCl2 lung damage by enhancing Type 2 cell damage, reducing Type 2 cell proliferation, altering alveolar macrophage populations, and depressing antioxidant defense systems.