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Event: 281

Key Event Title

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

Thyroxine (T4) in serum, 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. More help
T4 in serum, Decreased
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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
Organ term

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 thyroxine level thyroxine 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 Evgeniia Kazymova (send email) Open for citation & comment WPHA/WNT Endorsed
NIS inhibition and learning and memory impairment KeyEvent Arthur Author (send email) Open for citation & comment WPHA/WNT Endorsed
Nuclear receptor induced TH Catabolism and Developmental Hearing Loss KeyEvent Evgeniia Kazymova (send email) Open for adoption Under Development
NIS and Neurodevelopment KeyEvent Evgeniia Kazymova (send email) Not under active development
NIS and Cognitive Dysfunction KeyEvent Evgeniia Kazymova (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
Transthyretin interference KeyEvent Allie Always (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome Under Development
TPOi anterior swim bladder KeyEvent Evgeniia Kazymova (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome WPHA/WNT Endorsed
TPO inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
NIS inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Arthur Author (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
Hepatic nuclear receptor activation alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Arthur Author (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
TH displacement from serum TTR leading to altered amphibian metamorphosis KeyEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
TH displacement from serum TBG leading to altered amphibian metamorphosis KeyEvent Arthur Author (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
TPOi retinal layer structure KeyEvent Allie Always (send email) Open for citation & comment Under Review
TPOi eye size KeyEvent Evgeniia Kazymova (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Development
TPOi photoreceptor patterning KeyEvent Cataia Ives (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Development
Thyroid peroxidase- follicular adenoma/carcinoma KeyEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
Iodide pump inhibition- follicular adenoma/carcinoma KeyEvent Allie Always (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
thyroid follicular cell adenomas and carcinomas KeyEvent Arthur Author (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
Kidney dysfunction KeyEvent Arthur Author (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Development
IYD inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Arthur Author (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
Pendrin inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Cataia Ives (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
DUOX inhib alters metamorphosis KeyEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
Succinate dehydrogenase inhibition leading to increased insulin resistance KeyEvent Evgeniia Kazymova (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AhR activation in the liver leading to Adverse Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Mammals KeyEvent Cataia Ives (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
AhR activation in the thyroid leading to Adverse Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Mammals KeyEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite

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
human Homo sapiens High NCBI
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI
mouse Mus musculus High NCBI
chicken Gallus gallus Moderate NCBI
Xenopus laevis Xenopus laevis Moderate NCBI
zebrafish Danio rerio High NCBI
fathead minnow Pimephales promelas High NCBI
Sus scrofa Sus scrofa 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
Female High
Male 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. More help

All iodothyronines are derived from the modification of tyrosine molecules (Taurog, 2000). There are two biologically active thyroid hormones (THs) in serum, triiodothyronine (T3) and T4, and a few less active iodothyronines, reverse T3 (rT3),  and 3,3'-Diiodothyronine (3,5-T2). T4 is the predominant TH in circulation, comprising approximately 80% of the TH excreted from the thyroid gland in mammals and is the pool from which the majority of T3 in serum is generated (Zoeller et al., 2007). As such, serum T4 changes usually precede changes in other serum THs. Decreased thyroxine (T4) in serum results from one or more MIEs upstream and is considered a key biomarker of altered TH homeostasis (DeVito et al., 1999).

Serum T4 is used as a biomarker of TH status because the circulatory system serves as the major transport and delivery system for TH delivery to tissues. The majority of THs in the blood are bound to transport proteins (Bartalena and Robbins, 1993). In serum, it is the unbound, or ‘free’ form of the hormone that is thought to be available for transport into tissues. Free hormones are approximately 0.03 and 0.3 percent for T4 and T3, respectively. There are major species differences in the predominant binding proteins and their affinities for THs (see below). However, there is broad agreement that changes in serum concentrations of THs is diagnostic of thyroid disease or chemical-induced disruption of thyroid homeostasis across vertebrates (DeVito et al., 1999; Miller et al., 2009; Zoeller et al., 2007; Carr and Patiño, 2011).

Normal serum T4 reference ranges can be species and lifestage specific. In rodents, serum THs are low in the fetal circulation, increasing as the fetal thyroid gland becomes functional on gestational day 17, just a few days prior to birth. After birth serum hormones increase steadily, peaking at two weeks, and falling slightly to adult levels by postnatal day 21 (Walker et al., 1980; Harris et al., 1978; Goldey et al., 1995; Lau et al., 2003). Similarly, in humans, adult reference ranges for THs do not reflect the normal ranges for children at different developmental stages, with TH concentrations highest in infants, still increased in childhood, prior to a decline to adult levels coincident with pubertal development (Corcoran et al. 1977; Kapelari et al., 2008).

In some frog species, there is an analogous peak in THs in tadpoles that starts around embryonic NF stage 56, peaks at stage 62 and the declines to lower levels by stage 56 (Sternberg et al., 2011; Leloup and Buscaglia, 1977). 

Additionally, ample evidence is available from studies investigating responses to inhibitors of TH synthesis in fish. For example, Stinckens et al. (2020) showed reduced whole body T4 concentrations in zebrafish larvae exposed to 50 or 100 mg/L methimazole, a potent TPO inhibitor, from immediately after fertilization until 21 or 32 days of age. Exposure to 37 or 111 mg/L propylthiouracil also reduced T4 levels after exposure up to 14, 21 and 32 days in the same study. Walter et al. (2019) showed that propylthiouracil had no effect on T4 levels in 24h old zebrafish, but decreased T4 levels of 72h old zebrafish. This difference is probably due to the onset of embryonic TH production between the age of 24 and 72 hours (Opitz et al., 2011). Stinckens et al. (2016) showed that exposure to 2-mercaptobenzothiazole (MBT), an environmentally relevant TPO inhibitor, decreased whole body T4 levels in continuously exposed 5 and 32 day old zebrafish larvae. A high concentration of MBT also decreased whole body T4 levels in 6 day old fathead minnows, but recovery was observed at the age of 21 days although the fish were kept in the exposure medium (Nelson et al., 2016). Crane et al. (2006) showed decreased T4 levels in 28 day old fathead minnows continuously exposed to 32 or 100 µg/L methimazole.

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

Serum T3 and T4 can be measured as free (unbound) or total (bound + unbound). Free hormone concentrations are clinically considered more direct indicators of T4 and T3 activities in the body, but in animal studies, total T3 and T4 are typically measured. Historically, the most widely used method in toxicology is the radioimmunoassay (RIA). The method is routinely used in rodent endocrine and toxicity studies. The ELISA method is commonly used as a human clinical test method. Analytical determination of iodothyronines (T3, T4, rT3, T2) and their conjugates, through methods employing HPLC, liquid chromatography, immuno luminescence, and mass spectrometry are less common, but are becoming increasingly available (Hornung et al., 2015; DeVito et al., 1999; Baret and Fert, 1989; Spencer, 2013; Samanidou V.F et al., 2000; Rathmann D. et al., 2015 ). In fish early life stages most evidence for the ontogeny of thyroid hormone synthesis comes from measurements of whole body thyroid hormone levels using LC-MS techniques (Hornung et al., 2015) which are increasingly used to accurately quantify whole body thyroid hormone levels as a proxy for serum thyroid hormone levels (Nelson et al., 2016; Stinckens et al., 2016; Stinckens et al., 2020). It is important to note that thyroid hormones concentrations can be influenced by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors (e.g., circadian rhythms, stress, food intake, housing, noise) (see for example, Döhler et al., 1979).

Any of these measurements should be evaluated for the relationship to the actual endpoint of interest, repeatability, reproducibility, and lower limits of quantification using a fit-for-purpose approach. This is of particular significance when assessing the very low levels of TH present in fetal serum. Detection limits of the assay must be compatible with the levels in the biological sample. 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 these methods, particularly RIA, are repeatable and reproducible.

Domain of Applicability

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

Taxonomic: This KE is plausibly applicable across vertebrates and the overall evidence supporting taxonomic applicability is strong. THs are evolutionarily conserved molecules present in all vertebrate species (Hulbert, 2000; Yen, 2001). Moreover, their crucial role in zebrafish development, embryo-to-larval transition and larval-to-juvenile transition (Thienpont et al., 2011; Liu and Chan, 2002), and amphibian and lamprey metamorphoses is well established (Manzon and Youson, 1997; Yaoita and Brown, 1990; Furlow and Neff, 2006). 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 THs in the different species depends on the expression and function of specific proteins (e.g receptors or enzymes) under TH control and may vary across species and tissues. As such, extrapolation regarding TH action across species and developmental stages should be done with caution.

With few exceptions, vertebrate species have circulating T4 (and T3) that are bound to transport proteins in blood. Clear species differences exist in serum transport proteins (Dohler et al., 1979; Yamauchi and Isihara, 2009). There are three major transport proteins in mammals; thyroid binding globulin (TBG), transthyretin (TTR), and albumin. In adult humans, the percent bound to these proteins is about 75, 15 and 10 percent, respectively (Schussler 2000).  In contrast, in adult rats the majority of THs are bound to TTR. Thyroid- binding proteins are developmentally regulated in rats. TBG is expressed in rats until approximately postnatal day (PND) 60, with peak expression occurring during weaning (Savu et al., 1989). However, low levels of TBG persist into adult ages in rats and can be experimentally induced by hypothyroidism, malnutrition, or caloric restriction (Rouaze-Romet et al., 1992). While these species differences impact TH half-life (Capen, 1997) and possibly regulatory feedback mechanisms, there is little information on quantitative dose-response relationships of binding proteins and serum hormones during development across different species. Serum THs are still regarded as the most robust measurable key event causally linked to downstream adverse outcomes.

Life stage: 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. In zebrafish, Opitz et al. (2011) showed the formation of a first thyroid follicle at 55 hours post fertilization (hpf), Chang et al. (2012) showed a first significant TH increase at 120 hpf and Walter et al. (2019) showed clear TH production already at 72 hpf but did not analyse time points between 24 and 72 hpf. In fathead minnows, a significant increase of whole body TH levels was already observed between 1 and 2 dpf, which corresponds to the appearance of the thyroid anlage at 35 hpf prior to the first observation of thyroid follicles at 58 hpf (Wabuke-Bunoti and Firling, 1983). It is still uncertain when exactly embryonic TH synthesis is activated and how this determines sensitivity to TH system disruptors.

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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Hernandez-Mariano JA, Torres-Sanchez L, Bassol-Mayagoitia S, Escamilla-Nunez M, Cebrian ME, Villeda-Gutierrez EA, Lopez-Rodriguez G, Felix-Arellano EE, Blanco-Munoz J. 2017. Effect of exposure to p,p '-dde during the first half of pregnancy in the maternal thyroid profile of female residents in a mexican floriculture area. Environmental Research. 156:597-604.

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Zoeller, R. T., R. Bansal, et al. (2005). "Bisphenol-A, an environmental contaminant that acts as a thyroid hormone receptor antagonist in vitro, increases serum thyroxine, and alters RC3/neurogranin expression in the developing rat brain." Endocrinology 146(2): 607-612.