Prenatal induced chronic dietary hypothyroidism delays but does not block adult-type Leydig cell development

E. Rijntjes, K.J. Teerds, H.J. Swarts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Transient hypothyroidism induced by propyl-2-thiouracyl blocks postpartum Leydig cell development. In the present study, the effects of chronic hypothyroidism on the formation of this adult-type Leydig cell population were investigated, using a more physiological approach. Before mating, dams were put on a diet consisting of an iodide-poor feed supplemented with a low dose of perchlorate and, with their offspring, were kept on this diet until death. In the pups at day 12 postpartum, plasma thyroid-stimulating hormone levels were increased by 20-fold, whereas thyroxine and free tri-iodothyronine levels were severely depressed, confirming a hypothyroid condition. Adult-type progenitor Leydig cell formation and proliferation were reduced by 40¿60% on days 16 and 28 postpartum. This was followed by increased Leydig cell proliferation at later ages, suggesting a possible slower developmental onset of the adult-type Leydig cell population under hypothyroid conditions. Testosterone levels were increased 2- to 10-fold in the hypothyroid animals between days 21 and 42 postpartum compared with the age-matched controls. Combined with the decreased presence of 5-reductase, this implicates a lower production capacity of 5-reduced androgens. In 84-day-old rats, after correction for body weight-to-testis weight ratio, plasma insulin-like factor-3 levels were 35% lower in the hypothyroid animals, suggestive of a reduced Leydig cell population. This is confirmed by a 37% reduction in the Sertoli cell-to-Leydig cell ratio in hypothyroid rats. In conclusion, we show that dietary-induced hypothyroidism delays but, unlike propyl-2-thiouracyl, does not block the development of the adult-type Leydig cell population
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E305-E314
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology. Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • rat sertoli cells
  • thyroid-hormone
  • neonatal-hypothyroidism
  • luteinizing-hormone
  • testicular development
  • postnatal-development
  • interstitial-cells
  • iodine deficiency
  • prepubertal rat
  • testis


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