Event: 279

Key Event Title


Thyroperoxidase, Inhibition

Short name


Thyroperoxidase, Inhibition

Biological Context


Level of Biological Organization

Cell term


Cell term
thyroid follicular cell

Organ term


Organ term
thyroid follicle

Key Event Components


Process Object Action
iodide peroxidase activity thyroid peroxidase decreased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event


AOP Name Role of event in AOP
TPO Inhibition and Altered Neurodevelopment MolecularInitiatingEvent
Thyroid peroxidase- follicular adenoma/carcinoma MolecularInitiatingEvent
TPOi anterior swim bladder MolecularInitiatingEvent
TPO inhib alters metamorphosis MolecularInitiatingEvent
TPO inhibition and impaired fertility MolecularInitiatingEvent



Taxonomic Applicability


Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI
humans Homo sapiens High NCBI
pigs Sus scrofa High NCBI
Xenopus laevis Xenopus laevis High NCBI
chicken Gallus gallus High NCBI
zebrafish Danio rerio High NCBI
fathead minnow Pimephales promelas High NCBI

Life Stages


Life stage Evidence
All life stages High

Sex Applicability


Term Evidence
Female High
Male High

Key Event Description


Thyroperoxidase (TPO) is a heme-containing apical membrane protein within the follicular lumen of thyrocytes that acts as the enzymatic catalyst for thyroid hormone (TH) synthesis. TPO catalyzes several reactions in the thyroid gland, including: the oxidation of iodide; nonspecific iodination of tyrosyl residues of thyroglobulin (Tg); and, the coupling of iodotyrosyls to produce Tg-bound monoiodotyrosine (MIT) and diiodotyrosine (DIT) (Divi et al., 1997; Kessler et al., 2008; Ruf et al., 2006; Taurog et al., 1996). The outcome of TPO inhibition is decreased synthesis of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), a decrease in release of these hormones from the gland into circulation, and unless compensated, a consequent decrease in systemic concentrations of T4, and possibly T3. The primary product of TPO-catalyzed TH synthesis is T4 (Taurog et al., 1996; Zoeller et al., 2007) that would be peripherally or centrally deiodinated to T3.

It is important to note that TPO is a complex enzyme and that has two catalytic cycles and is capable of iodinating multiple species (Divi et al., 1997). Alterations in all of these events are not covered by some of the commonly used assays that measure “TPO inhibition” (e.g., guicacol and AmplexUltraRed, see below).  Therefore, in the context of this AOP we are using TPO inhibiton not in the classical sense, but instead to refer to the empirical data derived from the assays commonly used assays to investigate environmental chemicals.

Figure 1 below illustrates the enzymatic and nonenzymatic reactions mediated by TPO that result in the synthesis of thyroxine (T4) .

Inhibition of TPO can be reversible, with transient interaction between the enzyme and the chemical, or irreversible, whereby suicide substrates permanently inactivate the enzyme. Reversible and irreversible TPO inhibition may be determined by the chemical structure, may be concentration dependent, or may be influenced by other conditions, including the availability of iodine (Doerge and Chang, 2002).

The ontogeny of TPO has been determined using both direct and indirect evidence.  Available evidence suggests the 11th to 12th fetal week as the beginning of functional TPO in humans. In rodents, TPO function begins late in the second fetal week, with the first evidence of T4 secretion on gestational day 17 (Remy et al., 1980). Thyroid-specific genes appear in the thyroid gland according to a specific temporal pattern; thyroglobulin (Tg), TPO (Tpo), and TSH receptor (Tshr) genes are expressed by gestational day 14 in rats, and the sodium iodide symporter, NIS (Nis), is expressed by gestational day 16 in rats. Maturation to adult function is thought to occur within a few weeks after parturition in rats and mice, and within the first few months in neonatal humans (Santisteban and Bernal, 2005).  Tg is first detected in human fetuses starting at 5th week of gestation and rises throughout gestation (Thorpe-Beeston et al., 1992), but iodine trapping and T4 production does not occur until around 10-12 weeks.  Also, the dimerization of Tg, a characteristic of adult TH storage, is not found until much later in human gestation (Pintar, 2000). In rats, Tg immunoreactivity does not appear until day 15 of gestation (Fukiishi et al., 1982; Brown et al., 2000). The vast majority of research and knowledge on Tg is from mammals, although genomic orthologs are known for a variety of other species (Holzer et al., 2016).  It is important to note that prior to the onset of fetal thyroid function, TH are still required by the developing fetus which until that time relies solely on maternal sources. Chemical-induced TPO inhibition can affect synthesis in the maternal gland and in the fetal gland.

How It Is Measured or Detected


There are no approved OECD or EPA guideline study protocols for measurement of TPO inhibition.. However, there is an OECD scoping document on identification of chemicals that modulate TH signaling that provides details on a TPO assay (OECD, 2017). 

From the early 1960's, microsomal fractions prepared from porcine thyroid glands and isolated porcine follicles were used as a source of TPO for inhibition experiments (Taurog, 2005). Limited information has been published using microsomes from human goiter samples (Vickers et al., 2012) and rat thyroid glands (Paul et al., 2013; 2014; Paul-Friedman et al., 2016).

TPO activity has been measured for decades via indirect assessment by kinetic measurement of the oxidation of guaiacol (Chang & Doerge 2000; Hornung et al., 2010; Schmutzler et al., 2007).  This method is a low-throughput assay due to the very rapid kinetics of the guaiacol oxidation reaction. More recently, higher-throughput methods using commercial fluorescent and luminescent substrates with rodent, porcine, and human microsomal TPO have been developed (Vickers et al., 2012; Paul et al., 2013; 2014; Kaczur et al., 1997). This assay substitutes a pre-fluorescent substrate (Amplex UltraRed) for guaiacol, that when incubated with a source of peroxidase and excess hydrogen peroxidase, results in a stable fluorescent product proportional to TPO activity (Vickers et al., 2012).  The stability of the fluorescent reaction product allows this assay to be used in a higher throughput format (Paul-Friedman et al., 2016). This approach is appropriate for high-throughput screening but does not elucidate the specific mechanism by which a chemical may inhibit TPO (Paul-Friedman et al., 2016), and as with most in vitro assays, is subject to various sources of assay interference (Thorne et al., 2010).

HPLC has been used to measure of the activity of TPO via formation of the precursors monoiodotyrosine (MIT), diiodotyrosine (DIT), and both T3 and T4, in a reaction mixture containing TPO, or a surrogate enzyme such as lactoperoxidase (Divi & Doerge 1994). The tools and reagents for this method are all available. However, HPLC or other analytical chemistry techniques make this a low throughput assay, depending on the level of automation. A primary advantage of this in vitro method is that it directly informs hypotheses regarding the specific mechanism by which a chemical may impact thyroid hormone synthesis in vitro.  

Domain of Applicability


TPO inhibition is a MIE conserved across taxa, with supporting data from experimental models and human clinical testing. This conservation is likely a function of the high degree of protein sequence similarity in the catalytic domain of mammalian peroxidases (Taurog, 1999). Ample data available for human, rat, and porcine TPO inhibition demonstrate qualitative concordance across these species (Schmultzer et al., 2007; Paul et al., 2013; Hornung et al., 2010). A comparison of rat TPO and pig TPO, bovine lactoperoxidase, and human TPO inhibition by genistein demonstrated good qualitative and quantitative (40–66%) inhibition across species, as indicated by quantification of MIT and DIT production (Doerge and Chang, 2002). Ealey et al. (1984) demonstrated peroxidase activity in guinea pig thyroid tissue using 3,3'-diaminobenzidine tetrahydrochloride (DAB) as a substrate that is oxidized by the peroxidase to form a brown insoluble reaction product. Formation of this reaction product was inhibited by 3-amino-1,2,4-triazole and the TPO inhibitor, methimazole (MMI). A comparative analysis of this action of MMI between rat- and human-derived TPO indicates concordance of qualitative response. Data also suggest an increased quantitative sensitivity to MMI in rat compared to human (Vickers et al., 2012). Paul et al. (2013) tested 12 chemicals using the guaiacol assay using both porcine and rat thyroid microsomes. The authors concluded that there was an excellent qualitative concordance between rat and porcine TPO inhibition, as all chemicals that inhibited TPO in porcine thyroid microsomes also inhibited TPO in rat thyroid microsomes when tested within the same concentration range. In addition, these authors noted a qualitative concordance that ranged from 1.5 to 50-fold differences estimated by relative potency. Similary, Takayama et al. (1986) found a very large species difference in potency for sulfamonomethoxine between cynomologus monkeys and rats.

Evidence for Perturbation by Stressor

Overview for Molecular Initiating Event


There is a wealth of information on the inhibition of TPO by drugs such as MMI and PTU, as well as environmental xenobiotics. In the landmark paper on thyroid disruption by environmental chemicals, Brucker-Davis (1998) identified environmental chemicals that depressed TH synthesis by inhibiting TPO. Hurley (1998) listed TPO as a major target for thyroid tumor inducing pesticides. More recent work has tested over 1000 chemicals using a high-throughput screening assay (Paul-Friedman et al., 2016).



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Paul-Friedman K, Watt ED, Hornung MW, Hedge JM, Judson RS, Crofton KM, Houck KA, Simmons SO. 2016. Tiered High-Throughput Screening Approach to Identify Thyroperoxidase Inhibitors Within the ToxCast Phase I and II Chemical Libraries.  Toxicol Sci. 151:160-80.

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