The neuropeptides, VIP and NPY, that are present in the thyroid nerves are not released into the thyroid vein.
In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that the neuropeptides, vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and neuropeptide Y (NPY), which are present in the thyroid nerves, act as physiological neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of thyroid honnone secretion and thyroid blood flow. Specifically, we examined whether these neuropeptides can be released into thyroid blood vessels by electrical stimulation of the major thyroid nerves or whether their expression is altered by changes in iodine intake. Sprague-Dawley rats were used in this study. The cervical sympathetic trunk or the superior laryngeal nerve was stimulated by bipolar electrodes in anesthetized rats. During nerve stimulation, blood samples were withdrawn from the thyroid vein. Thyroid blood flow was monitored by laser Doppler blood flowmetry. Sympathetic stimulation caused a marked decrease in thyroid blood flow, which was associated with a significant increase in release of norepinephrine. However, these effects were not accompanied by any change in NPY release into the thyroid vein. Stimulation of the superior laryngeal nerve was not associated with changes in thyroid blood flow or VIP release into the thyroid vein. In a separate experiment, rats were fed a diet containing low-, high-, or normal iodine concentrations. Triiodothyronine (T 3) and thyroxine (T 4) levels in thyroid venous plasma were significantly reduced in rats fed a low-iodine diet but not in a separate group of rats fed a high iodine diet. However, these treatments had no effect on VIP or NPY concentrations in thyroid venous plasma or in thyroid ganglia. Thus, our results indicate that VIP and NPY, which are present in the thyroid nerves, may not be directly involved in the regulation of thyroid function.