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Eur J Neurosci. 2001 Dec;14(12):1968-80.

Protracted expression of serotonin transporter and altered thalamocortical projections in the barrelfield of hypothyroid rats.

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  • 1Instituto de Neurociencias, University Miguel Hernández-CSIC, Apdo. correos 18, 03550-San Juan (Alicante), Spain.


In humans, thyroid hormone deficiency during development causes severe neurological diseases but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. We have examined the effects of thyroid hormones on the development of somatosensory thalamocortical projections, by inducing hypothyroidism in rats by methimazole treatment at embryonic day 13 and subsequent thyroidectomy at postnatal day 6 (P6). Initial development of the thalamocortical projections and their tangential and laminar patterning were similar in normal and hypothyroid rats from birth to P4. The tangential spread of the thalamocortical arbors is reduced in hypothyroid rats after P4, paralleling the overall cortical atrophy. Anterograde tracing and single axon reconstructions indicate that thalamic afferents reached layer IV but that they had fewer and shorter branches, with a 42% reduction in the number of boutons. The transient serotonin (5-HT) immunostaining and 5-HT transporter (5-HTT) expression were both prolonged by 5 days in hypothyroid rats. This does not reflect a delayed maturation of the thalamus because other transiently expressed genes such as the vesicular monoamine transporter and the 5-HT1B receptor are not modified. Protracted 5-HTT expression also occurred in other areas with transient expression, but no changes were observed in the raphe nuclei where the 5-HTT is expressed permanently. Thus, thyroid hormones appear to be important in regulating the extinction of the 5-HTT in nonserotoninergic neurons. The transient stabilization of 5-HT reuptake in hypothyroid rats could affect the growth of thalamic axons. Our data stress the importance of maternal and foetal thyroid hormones for the normal development of sensory systems.

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