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Event: 277

Key Event Title

The KE title should describe a discrete biological change that can be measured. It should generally define the biological object or process being measured and whether it is increased, decreased, or otherwise definably altered relative to a control state. For example “enzyme activity, decreased”, “hormone concentration, increased”, or “growth rate, decreased”, where the specific enzyme or hormone being measured is defined. More help

Thyroid hormone synthesis, Decreased

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. The short name should be less than 80 characters in length. More help
TH synthesis, Decreased

Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. Note, KEs should be defined within a particular level of biological organization. Only KERs should be used to transition from one level of organization to another. Selection of the level of biological organization defines which structured terms will be available to select when defining the Event Components (below). More help
Level of Biological Organization

Cell term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.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. More help
Cell term
thyroid follicular cell

Organ term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.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. More help
Organ term
thyroid gland

Key Event Components

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.Because one of the aims of the AOP-KB is to facilitate de facto construction of AOP networks through the use of shared KE and KER elements, authors are also asked to define their KEs using a set of structured ontology terms (Event Components). In the absence of structured terms, the same KE can readily be defined using a number of synonymous titles (read by a computer as character strings). In order to make these synonymous KEs more machine-readable, KEs should also be defined by one or more “event components” consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 22 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; See List). Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling). 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 signalling 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. More help
Process Object Action
thyroid hormone generation thyroid hormone 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
TPO Inhibition and Altered Neurodevelopment KeyEvent Kevin Crofton (send email) Open for citation & comment TFHA/WNT Endorsed
NIS and Neurodevelopment KeyEvent Kevin Crofton (send email) Not under active development
Kidney dysfunction MolecularInitiatingEvent Jung-Hwa Oh (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Development
NIS and Cognitive Dysfunction KeyEvent Mary Gilbert (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
NIS inhibition and learning and memory impairment KeyEvent Anna Price (send email) Open for citation & comment TFHA/WNT Endorsed
TPOi anterior swim bladder KeyEvent Dries Knapen (send email) Open for adoption Under Development
TPO inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Jonathan Haselman (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
NIS inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Jonathan Haselman (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
IYD inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Jonathan Haselman (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
Pendrin inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Jonathan Haselman (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
DUOX inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Jonathan Haselman (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
TPO inhibition and impaired fertility KeyEvent June-Woo Park (send email) Open for comment. Do not cite Under Development
TPOi eye structure KeyEvent Lucia Vergauwen (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite


This is a structured field used to identify specific agents (generally chemicals) that can trigger the KE. Stressors identified in this field will be linked to the KE in a machine-readable manner, such that, for example, a stressor search would identify this as an event the stressor can trigger. NOTE: intermediate or downstream KEs in one AOP may function as MIEs in other AOPs, meaning that stressor information may be added to the KE description, even if it is a downstream KE in the pathway currently under development.Information concerning the stressors that may trigger an MIE can be defined using a combination of structured and unstructured (free-text) fields. For example, structured fields may be used to indicate specific chemicals for which there is evidence of an interaction relevant to this MIE. By linking the KE description to a structured chemical name, it will be increasingly possible to link the MIE to other sources of chemical data and information, enhancing searchability and inter-operability among different data-sources and knowledgebases. The free-text section “Evidence for perturbation of this MIE by stressor” can be used both to identify the supporting evidence for specific stressors triggering the MIE as well as to define broad chemical categories or other properties that classify the stressors able to trigger the MIE for which specific structured terms may not exist. More help

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) can be selected from an ontology. 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
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI
human Homo sapiens High NCBI
Pig Pig High NCBI
Xenopus laevis Xenopus laevis Moderate NCBI
zebrafish Danio rerio High NCBI
fathead minnow Pimephales promelas Moderate NCBI

Life Stages

The structured ontology terms for life-stage are more comprehensive than those for taxa, but may still require further description/development and explanation in the free text section. More help
Life stage Evidence
All life stages High

Sex Applicability

No help message More help
Term Evidence
Male High
Female High

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. For example, the biological state being measured could be the activity of an enzyme, the expression of a gene or abundance of an mRNA transcript, the concentration of a hormone or protein, neuronal activity, heart rate, etc. The biological compartment may be a particular cell type, tissue, organ, fluid (e.g., plasma, cerebrospinal fluid), etc. The role in the biology could describe the reaction that an enzyme catalyses and the role of that reaction within a given metabolic pathway; the protein that a gene or mRNA transcript codes for and the function of that protein; the function of a hormone in a given target tissue, physiological function of an organ, etc. Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs, KERs or AOPs. Only describe this KE as a single isolated measurable event/state. This will ensure that the KE is modular and can be used by other AOPs, thereby facilitating construction of AOP networks. More help

The thyroid hormones (TH), triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) are thyrosine based hormones. Synthesis of TH is regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) binding to its receptor and thyroidal availability of iodine via the sodium iodide symporter (NIS). Other proteins contributing to TH production in the thyroid gland, including thyroperoxidase (TPO), dual oxidase enzymes (DUOX), and pendrin are also necessary for iodothyronine production (Zoeller et al., 2007).

The production of THs in the thyroid gland and resulting serum concentrations are controlled by a negatively regulated feedback mechanism.  Decreased T4 and T3 serum concentrations activates the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis which upregulates thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) that acts to increase production of additional THs (Zoeller and Tan, 2007). This regulatory system includes: 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 at the tissue level; 5) intracellular control of TH concentration by deiodinating mechanisms; 6) transcriptional function of the nuclear TH receptor; and 7) in the fetus, the transplacental passage of T4 and T3 (Zoeller et al., 2007).

TRH and the TSH primarily regulate the production of T4, often considered a “pro-hormone,” and to a lesser extent of T3, the transcriptionally active TH. Most of the hormone released from the thyroid gland into circulation is in the form of T4, while peripheral deiodination of T4 is responsible for the majority of circulating T3. Outer ring deiodination of T4 to T3 is catalyzed by the deiodinases 1 and 2 (DIO1 and DIO2), with DIO1 expressed mainly in liver and kidney, and DIO2 expressed in several tissues including the brain (Bianco et al., 2006). Conversion of T4 to T3 takes place mainly in liver and kidney, 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). 

Most evidence for the ontogeny of TH synthesis comes from measurements of serum hormone concentrations.  And, importantly, the impact of xenobiotics on fetal hormones must include the influence of the maternal compartment since a majority of fetal THs are derived from maternal blood early in fetal life, with a transition during mid-late gestation to fetal production of THs that is still supplemented by maternal THs. In humans, THs can be found in the fetus as early as gestational weeks 10-12, and concentations rise continuously until birth. At term, fetal T4 is similar to maternal levels, but T3 remains 2-3 fold lower than maternal levels.  In rats, THs can be detected in the fetus as early as the second gestational week, but fetal synthesis does not start until gestational day 17 with birth at gestational day 22-23. Maternal THs continue to supplement fetal production until parturition. (see Howdeshell, 2002; Santisteban and Bernal, 2005 for review). The ontogeny of TPO inhibition during development by environmental chemicals is a data gap.

Decreased TH synthesis in the thyroid gland may result from several possible molecular-initiating events (MIEs) including: 1) Disruption of key catalytic enzymes or cofactors needed for TH synthesis, including TPO, NIS, or dietary iodine insufficiency. Theoretically, decreased synthesis of Tg could also affect TH production (Kessler et al., 2008; Yi et al., 1997). Mutations in genes that encode requisite proteins in the thyroid may also lead to impaired TH synthesis, including mutations in pendrin associated with Pendred Syndrome (Dossena et al., 2011), mutations in TPO and Tg (Huang and Jap 2015), and mutations in NIS (Spitzweg and Morris, 2010). 2) Decreased TH synthesis in cases of clinical hypothyroidism may be due to Hashimoto's thyroiditis or other forms of thyroiditis, or physical destruction of the thyroid gland as in radioablation or surgical treatment of thyroid lymphoma. 3) It is possible that TH synthesis may also be reduced subsequent to disruption of the negative feedback mechanism governing TH homeostasis, e.g. pituitary gland dysfunction may result in a decreased TSH signal with concomitant T3 and T4 decreases. 4) More rarely, hypothalamic dysfunction can result in decreased TH synthesis. 

Increased fetal thyroid levels are also possible. Maternal Graves disease, which results in fetal thyrotoxicosis (hyperthyroidism and increased serum T4 levels), has been successfully treated by maternal administration of TPO inhibitors (c.f., Sato et al., 2014).  

It should be noted that different species and different lifestages store different amounts of TH precursor and iodine within the thyroid gland. Thus, decreased TH synthesis via transient iodine insufficiency or inhibition of TPO may not affect TH release from the thyroid gland until depletion of stored iodinated Tg. Adult humans may store sufficient Tg-DIT residues to serve for several months to a year of TH demand (Greer et al., 2002; Zoeller, 2004). Neonates and infants have a much more limited supply of less than a week.

How It Is Measured or Detected

One of the primary considerations in evaluating AOPs is the relevance and reliability of the methods with which the KEs can be measured. The aim of this section of the KE description is not to provide detailed protocols, but rather to capture, in a sentence or two, per method, the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements. Methods that can be used to detect or measure the biological state represented in the KE should be briefly described and/or cited. 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).Key considerations regarding scientific confidence in the measurement approach include whether the assay is fit for purpose, whether it provides a direct or indirect measure of the biological state in question, whether it is repeatable and reproducible, and the extent to which it is accepted in the scientific and/or regulatory community. Information can be obtained from the OECD Test Guidelines website and the EURL ECVAM Database Service on Alternative Methods to Animal Experimentation (DB-ALM). ?

Decreased TH synthesis is often implied by measurement of TPO and NIS inhibition measured clinically and in laboratory models as these enzymes are essential for TH synthesis. Rarely is decreased TH synthesis measured directly, but rather the impact of chemicals on the quantity of T4 produced in the thyroid gland, or the amount of T4 present in serum is used as a marker of decreased T4 release from the thyroid gland (e.g., Romaldini et al., 1988). Methods used to assess TH synthesis include, incorporation of radiolabel tracer compounds, radioimmunoassay, ELISA, and analytical detection.   

Recently, amphibian thyroid explant cultures have been used to demonstrate direct effects of chemicals on TH synthesis, as this model contains all necessary synthesis enzymes including TPO and NIS (Hornung et al., 2010). For this work THs was measured by HPLC/ICP-mass spectometry. Decreased TH synthesis and release, using T4 release as the endpoint, has been shown for thiouracil antihyperthyroidism drugs including MMI, PTU, and the NIS inhibitor perchlorate (Hornung et al., 2010).

TIQDT (Thyroxine-immunofluorescence quantitative disruption test) is a method that provides an immunofluorescent based estimate of thyroxine in the gland of zebrafish (Thienpont et al 2011).  This method has been used for ~25 xenobiotics (e.g., amitrole, perchlorate, methimazole, PTU, DDT, PCBs).  The method detected changes for all chemicals known to directly impact TH synthesis in the thyroid gland (e.g., NIS and TPO inbibitors), but not those that upregulate hepatic catabolism of T4.

Domain of Applicability

This free text section should be used to elaborate on the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided). While structured terms may be selected to define the taxonomic, life stage and sex applicability (see structured applicability terms, above) of the KE, the structured terms may not adequately reflect or capture the overall biological applicability domain (particularly with regard to taxa). Likewise, the structured terms do not provide an explanation or rationale for the selection. The free-text section on evidence for taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability can be used to elaborate on why the specific structured terms were selected, and provide supporting references and background information.  More help

Decreased TH synthesis resulting from TPO or NIS inhibition is conserved across taxa, with in vivo evidence from humans, rats, amphibians, some fish specis, and birds, and in vitro evidence from rat and porcine microsomes. Indeed, TPO and NIS mutations result in congenital hypothyroidism in humans (Bakker et al., 2000; Spitzweg and Morris, 2010), demonstrating the essentiality of TPO and NIS function toward maintaining euthyroid status. Though decreased serum T4 is used as a surrogate measure to indicate chemical-mediated decreases in TH synthesis, clinical and veterinary management of hyperthyroidism and Grave's disease using propylthiouracil and methimazole, known to decrease TH synthesis, indicates strong medical evidence for chemical inhibition of TPO (Zoeller and Crofton, 2005).

Evidence for Perturbation by Stressor

Overview for Molecular Initiating Event

When a specific MIE can be defined (i.e., the molecular target and nature of interaction is known), in addition to describing the biological state associated with the MIE, how it can be measured, and its taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability, it is useful to list stressors known to trigger the MIE and provide evidence supporting that initiation. This will often be a list of prototypical compounds demonstrated to interact with the target molecule in the manner detailed in the MIE description to initiate a given pathway (e.g., 2,3,7,8-TCDD as a prototypical AhR agonist; 17α-ethynyl estradiol as a prototypical ER agonist). Depending on the information available, this could also refer to chemical categories (i.e., groups of chemicals with defined structural features known to trigger the MIE). Known stressors should be included in the MIE description, but it is not expected to include a comprehensive list. Rather initially, stressors identified will be exemplary and the stressor list will be expanded over time. For more information on MIE, please see pages 32-33 in the User Handbook.

not applicable as this KE is not an MIE


6-n-proylthiouracil is a common positive control


Methimazole is a very common positve control


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. Ideally, the list of references, should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide ( (OECD, 2015). More help

Bakker B, Bikker H, Vulsma T, de Randamie JS, Wiedijk BM, De Vijlder JJ. 2000. Two decades of screening for congenital hypothyroidism in The Netherlands: TPO gene mutations in total iodide organification defects (an update). The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism.  85:3708-3712.

Bianco AC, Kim BW. (2006). Deiodinases: implications of the local control of thyroid hormone action. J Clin Invest. 116: 2571–2579.

Dossena S, Nofziger C, Brownstein Z, Kanaan M, Avraham KB, Paulmichl M. (2011). Functional characterization of pendrin mutations found in the Israeli and Palestinian populations. Cell Physiol Biochem. 28: 477-484.Gereben B, Zavacki AM, Ribich S, Kim BW, Huang SA, Simonides WS, Zeöld A, Bianco AC. (2008). Cellular and molecular basis of deiodinase-regulated thyroid hormone signalling. Endocr Rev. 29:898–938.

Gereben B, Zeöld A, Dentice M, Salvatore D, Bianco AC.  Activation and inactivation of thyroid hormone by deiodinases: local action with general consequences.  Cell Mol Life Sci. 2008 Feb;65(4):570-90

Greer MA, Goodman G, Pleus RC, Greer SE. Health effects assessment for environmental perchlorate contamination: the dose response for inhibition of thyroidal radioiodine uptake in humans. Environ Health Perspect. 2002. 110:927-937.

Howdeshell KL. 2002. A model of the development of the brain as a construct of the thyroid system. Environ Health Perspect. 110 Suppl 3:337-48.

Hornung MW, Degitz SJ, Korte LM, Olson JM, Kosian PA, Linnum AL, Tietge JE. 2010. Inhibition of thyroid hormone release from cultured amphibian thyroid glands by methimazole, 6-propylthiouracil, and perchlorate. Toxicol Sci 118:42-51.

Huang CJ and Jap TS. 2015. A systematic review of genetic studies of thyroid disorders in Taiwan. J Chin Med Assoc. 78: 145-153.

Kessler J, Obinger C, Eales G. Factors influencing the study of peroxidase-generated iodine species and implications for thyroglobulin synthesis. Thyroid. 2008 Jul;18(7):769-74. doi: 10.1089/thy.2007.0310

Larsen PR. (2009). Type 2 iodothyronine deiodinase in human skeletal muscle: new insights into its physiological role and regulation. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 94:1893-1895.

Romaldini JH, Farah CS, Werner RS, Dall'Antonia Júnior RP, Camargo RS. 1988.  "In vitro" study on release of cyclic AMP and thyroid hormone in autonomously functioning thyroid nodules.  Horm Metab Res.20:510-2.

Santisteban P, Bernal J. Thyroid development and effect on the nervous system. Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2005 Aug;6(3):217-28.

Spitzweg C, Morris JC. 2010. Genetics and phenomics of hypothyroidism and goiter due to NIS mutations. Molecular and cellular endocrinology. 322:56-63.

Thienpont B, Tingaud-Sequeira A, Prats E, Barata C, Babin PJ, Raldúa D.  Zebrafish eleutheroembryos provide a suitable vertebrate model for screening chemicals that impair thyroid hormone synthesis.  Environ Sci Technol. 2011. 45(17):7525-32.

Yi X, Yamamoto K, Shu L, Katoh R, Kawaoi A. Effects of Propyithiouracil (PTU) Administration on the Synthesis and Secretion of Thyroglobulin in the Rat Thyroid Gland: A Quantitative Immuno-electron Microscopic Study Using Immunogold Technique. Endocr Pathol. 1997 Winter;8(4):315-325.

Zoeller RT.  Interspecies differences in susceptibility to perturbation of thyroid hormone homeostasis requires a definition of "sensitivity" that is informative for risk analysis. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2004 Dec;40(3):380.

Zoeller RT, Crofton KM. 2005.  Mode of action: developmental thyroid hormone insufficiency--neurological abnormalities resulting from exposure to propylthiouracil. Crit Rev Toxicol. 35:771-81

Zoeller RT, Tan SW, Tyl RW. 2007. General background on the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis. Critical reviews in toxicology.  37:11-53.