Using flow cytometry we observed the effects that different hormonal treatments had on the progression of rat thyroid (FRTL-5) cells through the cell cycle. The absence of hormones or the addition of TSH (6 mU/ml) did not induce DNA synthesis; however, the addition of IGF-I (30 ng/ml) promoted cell proliferation. The number of cells recruited by IGF-I was lower than when IGF-I and TSH were used. We therefore concluded that we had a model with three different types of cells: (1) quiescent cells, cells cultured in the absence of hormones, considered to be G0-arrested cells, (2) competent cells, TSH-treated cells that did not proliferate (being arrested in a cycle phase different from G0) and (3) actively proliferating cells, cells treated with TSH plus IGF-I.
Prothymosin α (PTA) mRNA levels were almost undetectable in cells cultured without hormones at all times studied, i.e. 8, 14 and 24 h. On the contrary, TSH and/or IGF-I greatly increased PTA mRNA. These data indicate that G0-arrested quiescent cells do not express PTA mRNA and that PTA mRNA is induced when FRTL-5 cells are committed to proliferate by the addition of TSH, in spite of being arrested by the lack of IGF-I. We therefore conclude that PTA mRNA expression may be an event that is necessary for cells to proliferate, but that it is not sufficient for the promotion of cell progression through the cell cycle.