Kinetic tracer studies show that thyroid hormones are transported into target tissues by stereospecific, high-affinity, low-capacity transporters, both in animals and humans. The K(d) of binding to the transporter varies within the nanomolar range. The different thyroid hormones (T(4), T(3), and rT(3)) are transported via different transporters, except in the pituitary, where they share the same transporter. The molecular mass of the transport proteins varies between 52 and 65kDa. The transport mechanisms are dependent on the energy charge of the cell and -- often -- the sodium gradient over the plasma membrane. A relationship exists with the transport systems of the aromatic amino acids. In non-thyroidal illness and starvation T(4) transport into T(3)-producing tissues is decreased, resulting in a low plasma T(3) concentration, by some considered to be an energy saving mechanism in situations of stress.