Résumé : The aim of this work was to investigate some aspects of the thyroid epithelial cell kinetics during the iodide-induced involution of a hyperplastic goitre in the rat. Rats were made iodine-deficient for 6 months, and propylthiouracil (PTU) (0.15%) was added to the diet during the last 2 months. Thereafter, rats were refed with iodide and PTU was removed (day 0). Forty-eight hours previously, all the rats were injected with tritiated thymidine ([3H]TdR) (1 microCi/g). Some animals were killed 1 hr or 24 hr after [3H]TdR injection (i.e. on day -2 and -1, day 0 corresponding to the restoration of a normal iodine diet); the other animals were killed after different delay periods and following [3H]TdR injection. Autoradiography of thyroid sections, iodine determination of plasma iodide and protein-bound iodine (PBI), and RIA of plasma thyroid stimulatory hormone (TSH) were performed. Plasma TSH concentration was very high on day 0 of iodide refeeding (3000 +/- 330 ng/ml) and remained at this level until day 8. Plasma PBI was very low on day 0, remained so until day 4 and greatly increased on day 8. Plasma iodide was also very low on day 0, but markedly increased on day 1, then did not vary significantly until day 43 of iodine refeeding. Thyroid weight, elevated on day 0, decreased relatively quickly until day 30, then more slowly until day 73. The [3H]TdR labelling index (LI) of the thyroid epithelial cells (TEC) was high on day 0 (56 +/- 3 labelled cells/10,000 cells), and 24 hr thereafter increased to 104 +/- 3, by division of the labelled cells. On day 1 of iodine refeeding, the LI had abruptly decreased to about half this value and then remained stable for 3 more days. Between day 4 and day 16, a progressive decline in the LI, (by about 3-4 per day), was observed. The LI showed no further modification, up to day 73, the longest period investigated. The decrease in LI occurred without any significant changes in the labelling intensity (grain count) of the remaining labelled cells between day 1 and 16, this indicates that no cell division took place during this period. The data are therefore interpreted as showing a biphasic elimination after iodide refeeding, of cells that were actively proliferating during the goitrous state.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)