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Event: 1003

Key Event Title

A descriptive phrase which defines a discrete biological change that can be measured. More help

Decreased, Triiodothyronine (T3)

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. More help
Decreased, Triiodothyronine (T3)
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Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. More help
Level of Biological Organization

Organ term

The location/biological environment in which the event takes place.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help

Key Event Components

The KE, as defined by a set structured ontology terms consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 14 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling).Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signaling).  The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signaling by that receptor).  Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description.  To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons.  If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests.  Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help
Process Object Action
abnormal circulating hormone level 3,3',5'-triiodothyronine decreased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE. Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
DIO2i posterior swim bladder KeyEvent Dries Knapen (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome EAGMST Approved
DIO2i anterior swim bladder KeyEvent Dries Knapen (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome EAGMST Approved
DIO1i posterior swim bladder KeyEvent Dries Knapen (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome EAGMST Approved
DIO1i anterior swim bladder KeyEvent Dries Knapen (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome EAGMST Approved
DIO1 inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Jonathan Haselman (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
TPOi anterior swim bladder KeyEvent Dries Knapen (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome EAGMST Approved
TPOi retinal layer structure KeyEvent Lucia Vergauwen (send email) Open for citation & comment EAGMST Under Review
TPOi eye size KeyEvent Lucia Vergauwen (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Development
TPOi photoreceptor patterning KeyEvent Lucia Vergauwen (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Development

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) that help to define the biological applicability domain of the KE.In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
zebrafish Danio rerio High NCBI
fathead minnow Pimephales promelas High NCBI
African clawed frog Xenopus laevis High NCBI

Life Stages

An indication of the the relevant life stage(s) for this KE. More help
Life stage Evidence
All life stages High

Sex Applicability

An indication of the the relevant sex for this KE. More help
Term Evidence
Unspecific Moderate

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. More help

There are two biologically active thyroid hormones (THs), triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), and a few less active iodothyronines (rT3, 3,5-T2), which are all derived from the modification of tyrosine molecules (Hulbert, 2000). However, the plasma concentrations of the other iodothyronines are significantly lower than those of T3 and T4. The different iodothyronines are formed by the sequential outer or inner ring monodeiodination of T4 and T3 by the deiodinating enzymes, Dio1, Dio2, and Dio3 (Gereben et al., 2008). Deiodinase structure is considered to be unique, as THs are the only molecules in the body that incorporate iodide.

The circulatory system serves as the major transport and delivery system for THs from synthesis in the gland to delivery to tissues. The majority of THs in the blood are bound to transport proteins (Bartalena and Robbins, 1993). In humans, the major transport proteins are TBG (thyroxine binding globulin), TTR (transthyretin) and albumin. The percent bound to these proteins in adult humans is about 75, 15 and 10 percent, respectively (Schussler 2000). Unbound (free) hormones are approximately 0.03 and 0.3 percent for T4 and T3, respectively. In serum, it is the free form of the hormone that is active.

There are major species differences in the predominant binding proteins and their affinities for THs (see section below on Taxonomic applicability). However, there is broad agreement that changes in concentrations of THs is diagnostic of thyroid disease or chemical-induced disruption of thyroid homeostasis (Zoeller et al., 2007).

It is notable that the changes measured in the free TH concentration reflect mainly the changes in the serum transport proteins rather than changes in the thyroid status. These thyroid-binding proteins serve as hormonal storage which ensures their even and constant distribution in the different tissues, while they protect the most sensitive ones in the case of severe changes in thyroid availability, like in thyroidectomies (Obregon et al., 1981). Initially, it was believed that all of the effects of TH were mediated by the binding of T3 to the thyroid nuclear receptors (TRa and TRb), a notion which is now questionable due to the increasing evidence that support the non-genomic action of TH (Davis et al., 2010, Moeller et al., 2006). Many non-nuclear TH binding sites have been identified to date and they usually lead to rapid cellular response in TH-effects (Bassett et al., 2003). Four types of thyroid hormone signaling have been defined (Anyetei-Anum et al., 2018): type 1 is the canonical pathway in which liganded TR binds directly to DNA; type 2 describes liganded TR tethered to chromatin-associated proteins, but not bound to DNA directly; type 3 suggests that liganded TR can exert its function without recruitment to chromatin in either the nucleus or cytoplasm; and type 4 proposes that thyroid hormone acts at the plasma membrane or in the cytoplasm without binding TR, a mechanism of action that is emerging as a key component of thyroid hormone signaling.

The production of THs in the thyroid gland and the circulation levels in the bloodstream are self-controlled by an efficiently regulated feedback mechanism across the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Thyroid (HPT) axis. TH levels are regulated, not only in the plasma level, but also in the individual cell level, to maintain homeostasis. This is succeeded by the efficient regulatory mechanism of the thyroid hormone axis which consists of the following: (1) the hypothalamic secretion of the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), (2) the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) secretion from the anterior pituitary, (3) hormonal transport by the plasma binding proteins, (4) cellular uptake mechanisms in the cell level, (5) intracellular control of TH concentrations by the deiodinating mechanism (6) transcriptional function of the nuclear TH receptor and (7) in the fetus, the transplacental passage of T4 and T3 (Cheng et al., 2010).

In regards to the brain, the TH concentration involves also an additional level of regulation, namely the hormonal transport through the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) (Williams, 2008). The TRH and the TSH regulate the production of THs. Less T3 (the biologically more active TH) than T4 is produced by the thyroid gland. The rest of the required amount of T3 is produced by outer ring deiodination of T4 by the deiodinating enzymes D1 and D2 (Bianco et al., 2006), a process which takes place mainly in liver and kidneys but also in other target organs such as in the brain, the anterior pituitary, brown adipose tissue, thyroid and skeletal muscle (Gereben et al., 2008; Larsen, 2009). Both hormones exert their action in almost all tissues of mammals and they are acting intracellularly, and thus the uptake of T3 and T4 by the target cells is a crucial step of the overall pathway. The trans-membrane transport of TH is performed mainly through transporters that differ depending on the cell type (Hennemann et al., 2001; Friesema et al., 2005; Visser et al., 2008). Many transporter proteins have been identified to date. The monocarboxylate transporters (Mct8, Mct10) and the anion-transporting polypeptide (OATP1c1) show the highest degree of affinity towards TH (Jansen et al., 2005) and mutations in these genes have pathophysiological effects in humans (Bernal et al., 2015). Unlike humans with an MCT8 deficiency, MCT8 knockout mice do not have neurological impairment. One explanation for this discrepancy could be differences in expression of the T4 transporter OATP1C1 in the blood–brain barrier. This shows that cross-species differences in the importance of specific transporters may occur.    

T3 and T4 have significant effects on normal development, neural differentiation, growth rate and metabolism (Yen, 2001; Brent, 2012; Williams, 2008), with the most prominent ones to occur during the fetal development and early childhood. The clinical features of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism emphasize the pleiotropic effects of these hormones on many different pathways and target organs. The thyroidal actions though are not only restricted to mammals, as their high significance has been identified also for other vertebrates, with the most well-studied to be the amphibian metamorphosis (Furlow and Neff, 2006). The importance of the thyroid-regulated pathways becomes more apparent in iodine deficient areas of the world, where a higher rate of cretinism and growth retardation has been observed and linked to decreased TH levels (Gilbert et al., 2012). Another very common cause of severe hypothyroidism in human is the congenital hypothyroidism, but the manifestation of these effects is only detectable in the lack of adequate treatment and is mainly related to neurological impairment and growth retardation (Glinoer, 2001), emphasizing the role of TH in neurodevelopment in all above cases. In adults, the thyroid-related effects are mainly linked to metabolic activities, such as deficiencies in oxygen consumption, and in the metabolism of the vitamin, proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, but these defects are subtle and reversible (Oetting and Yen, 2007). Blood tests to detect the amount of thyroid hormone (T4) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) are routinely done for newborn babies for the diagnosis of congenital hypothyroidism at the earliest stage possible.

Although the components of the TH system as well as TH synthesis and action are highly conserved across vertebrates, there are some taxon-specific considerations.

Although the HPT axis is highly conserved, there are some differences between fish and mammals (Blanton and Specker, 2007; Deal and Volkoff, 2020). For example, in fish, corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) often plays a more important role in regulating thyrotropin (TSH) secretion by the pituitary and thus TH synthesis compared to TSH-releasing hormone (TRH). TTRs from fish have low sequence identity with human TTR, for example seabream TTR has 54% sequence identity with human TTR but the only amino acid difference within the thyroxine-binding site is the conservative substitution of Ser117 in human TTR to Thr117 in seabream TTR (Santos and Power, 1999; Yamauchi et al., 1999; Eneqvist et al., 2004). In vitro binding experiments showed that TH system disrupting chemicals bind with equal or weaker affinity to seabream TTR than to the human TTR with polar TH disrupting chemicals, in particular, showing a more than 500-fold lower affinity for seabream TTR compared to human TTR (Zhang et al., 2018).

Zebrafish and fathead minnow are oviparous fish species in which maternal THs are transferred to the eggs and regulate early embryonic developmental processes during external (versus intra-uterine in mammals) development (Power et al., 2001; Campinho et al., 2014; Ruuskanen and Hsu, 2018) until embryonic TH synthesis is initiated. Maternal transfer of THs, both T4 and T3, to the eggs has been demonstrated in zebrafish (Walpita et al., 2007; Chang et al., 2012) and fathead minnow (Crane et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2016).

Several studies have reported evidence of T3 decreases after exposure to TPO inhibitors and deiodinase inhibitors in early life stages of zebrafish (Stinckens et al., 2016; Stinckens et al., 2020; Wang et al., 2020) and fathead minnow (Nelson et al., 2016; Cavallin et al., 2017).

How It Is Measured or Detected

A description of the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements.These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA). Do not provide detailed protocols. More help

T3 and T4 can be measured as free (unbound) or total (bound + unbound) in serum, or in tissues. Free hormones are considered more direct indicators of T4 and T3 activities in the body. The majority of T3 and T4 measurements are made using either RIA or ELISA kits. In animal studies, total T3 and T4 are typically measured as the concentrations of free hormone are very low and difficult to detect. Historically, the most widely used method in toxicology is RIA. The method is routinely used in rodent endocrine and toxicity studies. The ELISA method has become more routine in rodent studies. The ELISA method is      commonly used as a human clinical test method.

Recently, analytical determination of iodothyronines (T3, T4, rT3, T2) and their conjugates through methods employing HPLC and mass spectrometry have become more common (DeVito et al., 1999; Miller et al., 2009; Hornung et al., 2015; Nelson et al., 2016; Stinckens et al., 2016).

Any of these measurements should be evaluated for fit-for-purpose, relationship to the actual endpoint of interest, repeatability, and reproducibility. All three of the methods summarized above would be fit-for-purpose, depending on the number of samples to be evaluated and the associated costs of each method. Both RIA and ELISA measure THs by      an indirect methodology, whereas analytical determination is the most direct measurement available. All of these methods, particularly RIA, are repeatable and reproducible.

In fish early life stages most evidence for the ontogeny of TH synthesis comes from measurements of whole body TH levels and using LC-MS techniques (Hornung et al., 2015) are increasingly used to accurately quantify whole body TH levels (Nelson et al., 2016; Stinckens et al., 2016, 2020).

Domain of Applicability

A description of the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided).  More help

Taxonomic: The overall evidence supporting taxonomic applicability is strong. With few exceptions vertebrate species have T3 and T4 that are mostly bound to transport proteins in blood as well as T3 and T4 in tissues. Therefore, the current key event is plausibly applicable to vertebrates in general. Clear species differences exist in transport proteins (Yamauchi and Isihara, 2009). Specifically, the majority of supporting data for TH decreases come from rat studies and have been measured mostly in serum. The predominant iodothyronine binding protein in rat serum is transthyretin (TTR). TTR demonstrates a reduced binding affinity for T4 when compared with thyroxine binding globulin (TBG), the predominant serum binding protein for T4 in humans. This difference in serum binding protein affinity for THs is thought to modulate serum half-life for T4; the half-life of T4 in rats is 12-24 hr, whereas the half-life in humans is 5-9 days (Capen, 1997). While these species differences impact hormone half-life, possibly regulatory feedback mechanisms, and quantitative dose-response relationships, measurement of decreased THs is still regarded as a measurable key event causatively linked to downstream adverse outcomes.

Several studies have reported evidence of T3 decreases after exposure to TPO inhibitors and deiodinase inhibitors in early life stages of zebrafish (Stinckens et al., 2016; Stinckens et al., 2020; Wang et al., 2020) and fathead minnow (Nelson et al., 2016; Cavallin et al., 2017). Such measurements in fish early life stages are usually based on whole animal samples and do not allow for distinguishing between systemic and tissue TH alterations.

THs are evolutionarily conserved molecules present in all vertebrate species (Hulbert, 2000; Yen, 2001). Moreover, their crucial role in amphibian and lamprey metamorphoses (Manzon and Youson, 1997; Yaoita and Brown, 1990) as well as fish development, embryo-to-larval transition and larval-to-juvenile transition (Thienpont et al., 2011; Liu and Chan, 2002) is well established. Their role as environmental messenger via exogenous routes in echinoderms confirms the hypothesis that these molecules are widely distributed among the living organisms (Heyland and Hodin, 2004). However, the role of TH in the different species may differ depending on the expression or function of specific proteins (e.g receptors or enzymes) that are related to TH function, and therefore extrapolation between species should be done with caution.

Life stage: THs are essential in all life stages, but decreases of TH levels are not applicable to all developmental phases. The earliest life stages of teleost fish rely on maternally transferred THs to regulate certain developmental processes until embryonic TH synthesis is active (Power et al., 2001). As a result, T4 levels are not expected to decrease in response to exposure to inhibitors of TH synthesis during these earliest stages of development. However, T3 levels are expected to decrease upon exposure to deiodinase inhibitors in any life stage, since maternal T4 needs to be activated to T3 by deiodinases similar to embryonically synthesized T4.

Sex: The KE is plausibly applicable to both sexes. THs are essential in both sexes and the components of the HPT-axis are identical in both sexes. There can however be sex-dependent differences in the sensitivity to the disruption of TH levels and the magnitude of the response. In humans, females appear more susceptible to hypothyroidism compared to males when exposed to certain halogenated chemicals (Hernandez‐Mariano et al., 2017; Webster et al., 2014). In adult zebrafish, Liu et al. (2019) showed sex-dependent changes in TH levels and mRNA expression of regulatory genes including corticotropin releasing hormone (crh), thyroid stimulating hormone (tsh) and deiodinase 2 after exposure to organophosphate flame retardants. The underlying mechanism of any sex-related differences remains unclear.


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. More help

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Walpita CN, Van der Geyten S, Rurangwa E, Darras VM. 2007. The effect of 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine supplementation on zebrafish (danio rerio) embryonic development and expression of iodothyronine deiodinases and thyroid hormone receptors. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 152(2-3):206-214.

Wang JX, Shi GH, Yao JZ, Sheng N, Cui RN, Su ZB, Guo Y, Dai JY. 2020. Perfluoropolyether carboxylic acids (novel alternatives to pfoa) impair zebrafish posterior swim bladder development via thyroid hormone disruption. Environment International. 134.

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