Thyroid hormones are not only responsible for thermogenesis and energy metabolism in animals, but also have an important role in cell differentiation and development. Amphibian metamorphosis provides an excellent model for studying the remodeling of the body. This metamorphic organ remodeling is induced by thyroid hormones, and a larval body is thus converted into an adult one. The matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI)-mass spectrometry (MS) imaging technology is expected to be a suitable tool for investigating small bioreactive molecules. The present study describes the distribution of the thyroid hormones, i.e., triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) and their inactive form reverse T3 (rT3) in Xenopus tropicalis tadpoles using two different types of imaging techniques, MS/MS and Fourier transform (FT)-MS imaging. As a result of MS/MS imaging, we demonstrated that T3 was mainly distributed in the gills. T4 was faintly localized in the eyes, inner gills, and intestine during metamorphosis. The intensity of T3 in the gills and the intensity of T4 in the body fluids were increased during metamorphosis. Moreover, the localization of the inactive form rT3 was demonstrated to be separate from T3, namely in the intestine and muscles. In addition, FT-MS imaging could utilize simultaneous imaging including thyroid hormone. This is the first report to demonstrate the molecular distribution of thyroid hormones themselves and to discriminate T3, T4, and rT3 in animal tissues.
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