General and comparative endocrinology

Regulation of gonadal sex ratios and pubertal development by the thyroid endocrine system in zebrafish (Danio rerio).

PMID 23337033


We examined associations between thyroid condition, gonadal sex and pubertal development in zebrafish. Seventy-two-hour postfertilization larvae were reared in untreated medium or in the presence of goitrogens (sodium perchlorate, 0.82 mM; methimazole, 0.15 and 0.3 mM) or thyroxine (1 and 10 nM) for 30 days. Thyrocyte height, gonadal sex and gonadal development were histologically determined at 45 and 60 days postfertilization (dpf). Thyrocyte hypertrophy, an index of hypothyroidism, was observed at 45 and 60 dpf in perchlorate-treated but only at 45 dpf in methimazole-treated fish. Similarly, gonadal sex ratios were biased toward ovaries relative to control animals at 45 and 60 dpf in perchlorate-treated fish but only at 45 dpf in methimazole-treated fish. Gonadal sex ratios were biased toward testes at 45 and 60 dpf in thyroxine-treated fish. Spermatogenesis was delayed in testes from goitrogen-treated fish at 60 dpf relative to control values, but was unaffected in testes from thyroxine-treated individuals. Oogenesis seemed to be nonspecifically delayed in all treatments relative to control at 60 dpf. This study confirmed the previously reported association between hypothyroid condition and ovarian-skewed ratios, and hyperthyroid condition and testicular-skewed ratios, and also showed that male pubertal development is specifically delayed by experimental hypothyroidism. The simultaneous recovery from the hypothyroid and ovary-inducing effects of methimazole by 60 dpf (27 days post-treatment) suggests that the ovary-skewing effect of goitrogens is reversible when thyroid conditions return to basal levels before developmental commitment of gonadal sex. Conversely, the masculinizing effect of hyperthyroidism seems to be stable and perhaps permanent.