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Abstract

The thyroid follicles of adult male Wistar rats were examined at six evenly spaced times over 24 hr with a morphometric technique. Follicular structures were subjected to distinct variations during 24 hr, with respect to volume and numerical densities of follicles in the thyroid gland, and diameters, volumes, cell numbers, and luminal surface areas of individual follicles. Variations in follicular structures were divided into two phases: a large follicular phase at 1200, 1600, and 2000 hr and a small follicular phase at the other times. Although volume densities of follicles in the gland varied with a small amplitude, diameters, volumes, and cell numbers of individual follicles exhibited distinct fluctuations during 24 hr. Numerical densities of follicles in the gland changed distinctly during the small follicular phase as well. Degenerating follicular cells appeared in the follicular lumen especially at 1600 hr. No mitotic follicular cells were found throughout the experiment. Furthermore, one to three follicular cells of two adjacent follicles were often in contact with each other at 0400, 0800, and 1200 hr, and these follicles were lined by the common basement membranes. These results suggest that the variations in follicular structures during the small follicular phase occur in the form of follicle separation and fusion. Moreover, the morphological and morphometric variations in follicles reflect those in subcellular structures of follicular cells previously reported by us.