Flounder metamorphosis, marked by eye migration, lateralized pigmentation, and tissue differentiation in the stomach and skeletal muscle, is stimulated by thyroid hormone (TH). It is known that tri-iodothyronine (T3) produced by iodothyronine deiodinase type-1 (Dio1) from thyroxine (T4) enters the blood, whereas T3 produced by Dio2 penetrates into the nucleus of the Dio2-expressing cells, and then Dio3 inactivates both T4 and T3. To better understand the distinct functions of these three deiodinases in T3 regulation during flounder metamorphosis, we examined the tissue expression patterns of dio1, dio2, and dio3 in larvae of the Japanese flounder, Paralichthys olivaceus, by section in situ hybridization (SISH). We found that each deiodinase is expressed in a spatially and temporally specific pattern. dio1 is expressed in liver parenchymal cells from pro-metamorphosis to early climax, while dio2 is expressed in limited regions of the eyes, tectum, and skeletal muscles from pro-metamorphosis to post-climax. Considering these findings together with reports on other vertebrates, we predict that the liver cells expressing dio1 supply T3 to the blood, and that this systemic T3 synchronizes metamorphosis of differentiating tissues throughout the larval body, whereas the eyes, tectum, and skeletal muscles autonomously produce additional T3 for local tissue differentiation. Finally, dio3 expression is detected in skeletal muscle and gastric gland blastemas, which both undergo marked tissue differentiation at metamorphic climax. We hypothesize that dio3 expression protects these tissues from basal T3 levels early in metamorphosis, ensuring, together with the T3 surge from the liver, the synchronization of tissue differentiation at metamorphic climax.
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