Pituitary-thyroid axis reactivity to hyper- and hypothyroidism in the perinatal period: ontogeny of regulation of regulation and long-term programming of responses.
To evaluate the role of perinatal thyroid status in the development of pituitary-thyroid axis regulation, we administered triiodothyronine to newborn rats for the first five days postpartum to achieve hyperthyroidism, or propylthiouracil perinatally to rat dams and pups from gestational day 17 through postnatal day 5 to achieve hypothyroidism. Plasma T4, T3, and TSH levels were determined from birth through 50 days postpartum. Administration of exogenous T3 produced the expected immediate suppression of plasma T4 and TSH, with recovery toward normal values beginning within days of discontinuing the T3 regimen. Plasma T3 values were markedly elevated during the period in which T3 was being given, but subsequently became subnormal, with deficits persisting into young adulthood. With the PTU regimen, plasma T4 and T3 levels were markedly suppressed through postnatal day 10, rose over the ensuing two weeks, but nevertheless showed significant deficits into adulthood. TSH levels in the immediate neonatal period were subnormal in the PTU group, despite the marked lowering of circulating thyroid hormones; TSH then rose dramatically to levels four times normal, subsiding to control values by the end of the first month. These results suggest that a critical period exists in which regulation of pituitary-thyroid axis function is programmed. During this phase, TSH secretion can be suppressed by excess thyroid hormones, but cannot be increased by hormone deficiencies. Perhaps more importantly, perinatal thyroid status "programs" its own future reactivity, so that early hypothyroidism results in reduced T4 and T3 levels in adulthood, despite normal levels of TSH.
Pracyk, JB; Seidler, FJ; McCook, EC; Slotkin, TA
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