||Thyroid hormone is known to elicit diverse cellular and metabolic effects in various organs, including mitogenesis in the rat liver. In the present study, experiments were carried out to determine whether thyroid hormone is able to stimulate cell proliferation in another quiescent organ such as the pancreas. 3,5,3'-L-tri-iodothyronine (T3) added to the diet at a concentration of 4 mg/kg caused a striking increase in nuclear bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation of rat acinar cells 7 days after treatment (the labeling index was 46.7% in T3-treated rats vs 7.1% in controls). BrdU incorporation was limited to the acinar cells, with duct cells and islet cells being essentially negative. The increase in DNA synthesis was accompanied by the presence of several mitotic figures. Histological examination of the pancreas did not exhibit any sign of T3-induced toxicity. Determination of the apoptotic index, measurement of the serum levels of alpha-amylase and lipase, and glycemia determination did not show any increase over control values, suggesting that the enhanced proliferation of acinar cells was a direct effect induced by T3 and not a regenerative response consequent to acinar or beta-cell injury. Additional experiments showed that DNA synthesis was induced as early as 2 days after T3 treatment (the labeling index was 9.4 vs 1.9% in controls) and was associated with increased protein levels of cyclin D1, cyclin A and proliferating cell nuclear antigen, with no substantial differences in the expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27. The mitogenic effect of T3 on the pancreas was not limited to the rat, since extensive acinar cell proliferation was also observed in the pancreas of mice treated with T3 for 1 week (the labeling index was 28% in T3-treated mice vs 1.8% in controls). Treatment with three other ligands of nuclear receptors, ciprofibrate, all-trans retinoic acid and 1,4-bis[2-(3,5-dichloropyridyloxy)]benzene, induced little or no pancreatic cell proliferation. These results demonstrated that T3 is a powerful inducer of cell proliferation in the pancreas and suggested that pancreatic acinar cell proliferation by selected agents may have potential for therapeutic use.