In the hope of localizing thyroglobulin within focullar cells of the thyroid gland, antibodies raised against rat thyroglobulin were labeled with the enzyme horseradish peroxidase or with (125)I-radioiodine. Sections of rat thyroids fixed in glutaraldehyde and embedded in glycol methacrylate or Araldite were placed in contact with the labeled antibodies. The sites of antibody binding were detected by diaminobenzidine staining in the case of peroxidase labeling, and radioautography in the case of 125(I) labeling.
Peroxidase labeling revealed that the antibodies were bound by the luminal colloid of the thyroid follicles and, within focullar cells, by colloid droplets, condensing vacuoles, and apical vesicles. (125)I labeling confirmed these findings, and revealed some binding of antibodies within Golgi saccules and rough endoplasmic reticulum. This method provides a visually less distinct distribution than peroxidase labeling, but it allowed ready quantitation of the reactions by counts of silver grains in the radioautographs. The counts revealed that the concentration of label was similar in the luminal colloid of different follicles, but that it varied within the compartments of follicular cells. A moderate concentration was detected in rough endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi saccules, whereas a high concentration was found in condensing vacuoles, apical vesicles, and in the luminal colloid. Varying amounts of label were observed over the different types of colloid droplets, and this was attributed to various degrees of lysosomal degradation of thyroglobulin.
It is concluded that the concentration of thyroglobulin antigenicity increases during transport from the ribosomal site of synthesis to the follicular colloid, and then decreases during the digestion of colloid droplets which leads to the release of the thyoid hormone.