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Abstract

To clarify 24-hr variations in rat thyroid follicular cells under physiological conditions, their subcellular structures were examined at six evenly spaced times during 24 hr by using a morphometric technique. The volume, surface, and numerical densities of subcellular structures varied distinctly over each 24-hr period, with a bimodal pattern. The cellular and nuclear volumes varied also bimodally over 24 hr. A decrease in the surface density of the apical plasmalemma at 1200 and 0000 hr coincided with an increase in volume density of cytoplasmic granules representing colloid droplets and dense bodies. Most granules (colloid droplets) appearing at these times were reduced in electron density. At other times, especially at 1600 and 0400 hr, morphometric parameters of rough endoplasmic reticulum (rER), Golgi complex, and subapical vesicles were prominently increased, although values for rER did not peak at 1600 hr. At these times, the volume densities of cytoplasmic granules, most of which were heterogeneous and of homogeneous electron density, were decreased. These findings coincided with immediate and subsequent reactions of follicular cells after injection of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). From the evidence, it seems likely that variations in follicular cells over a 24-hr period reflect variations in blood TSH concentration. The total membrane areas of membrane components in follicular cells were calculated from the morphometric measurements. These areas fluctuated unimodally during 24 hr over a 65% range. This suggests that the membranes in follicular cells are subjected to cyclic degradation and regeneration during each 24-hr period.