Gerber H., Peter H., Ferguson D.C., et al.
We have discussed the etiopathology of feline toxic nodular goiter in the context of human nodular goiter pathogenesis. We have reviewed thyroid heterogeneity, growth regulation, functional and growth autonomy, nodule and tumor formation, and the evolution of toxic nodular goiter in the human being. By addressing toxic nodular goiter of the cat, the history, morphologic findings, xenotransplantation and cell culture studies, evidence for and against circulating thyroid stimulators and epizootiological studies of the feline disease have been summarized. Due to its structure, the thyroid gland offers some unique possibilities to study the mechanisms that are responsible for cellular heterogeneity, the emergence of autonomous nodular growth and function, and, ultimately, the development of tumors. The demonstration of naturally occurring clones of cells with high intrinsic proliferation potential within the follicular epithelium of the thyroid has fostered promising new concepts on the genesis of nodular growth of benign and possibly malignant endocrine tumors. Hyperthyroid cat goiters contain single or multiple, autonomously (i.e., TSH-independently) functioning and growing nodules. Neither hyperfunction nor growth of these nodules depends on extrathyroidal circulating stimulators. The basic lesion appears to be an excessive intrinsic growth capacity of some thyroid cells. The factors enhancing the transformation of a normal thyroid into a nodular hyperfunctioning goiter over many years are still unknown. Immunological, environmental, and nutritional factors are the focus of ongoing studies, but an infectious agent can not yet be excluded.