Thyroid function and cold acclimation in the hamster, Mesocricetus auratus


Basal metabolic rate (BMR), thyroxine utilization rate (T4U), and triiodothyronine utilization rate (T3U) were measured in cold-acclimated (CA) and room temperature-acclimated (RA) male golden hamsters, Mesocricetus auratus. Hormone utilization rates were calculated via the plasma disappearance technique using 125I-labeled hormones and measuring serum hormone levels via radioimmunoassay. BMR showed a significant 28% increase with cold acclimation from 4.50 ± 0.05 to 5.77 ± 0.10 ml O2·h-1·g(-2/3). The same cold exposure also produced a 32% increase in T4U (10.75 ± 0.51 vs. 14.19 ± 0.75 ng·day-1·g(-2/3)), and a 204% increase in T3U (5.51 ± 0.53 vs. 16.77 ± 1.35). The much greater increase in T3U implies that previous assessments of the relationship between cold acclimation and thyroid function may have been underestimated and that cold exposure induces both quantitative and qualitative changes in thyroid function. It is concluded that in the cold-acclimated state, T3U more accurately reflects thyroid function than does T4U. A mechanism for the cold-induced change in BMR is proposed, for which alterations in four aspects of thyroid function are required: 1) a decrease in plasma T4 binding, 2) an elevation of the pituitary T4 'set point', 3) a preferential shift in deiodinase activity from reverse T3 to T3 production, and 4) an increase in the thyroidal secretion of T3.

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American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism