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Endocrine. 2012 Dec;42(3):684-93. doi: 10.1007/s12020-012-9714-z. Epub 2012 Jun 14.

Effects of short- and long-duration hypothyroidism on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function in rats: in vitro and in situ studies.

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Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of Athens, 75 Mikras Asias Str., 11527, Goudi, Athens, Greece.


The purpose of this study is to assess the effects of hypothyroidism on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis; the functional integrity of each component of the HPA axis was examined in short-term and long-term hypothyroidism. Neuropeptide synthesis, release, and content were evaluated in vitro both in the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary, and corticosterone release was assessed in primary adrenal cell cultures at 7 (short-term) and 60 days (long-term hypothyroidism) after thyroidectomy in male rats. Hypothyroid rats showed adrenal insufficiency in several parameters, which were associated with the duration of hypothyroidism. Cerebrospinal (CSF) ACTH was decreased in all hypothyroid animals, while CSF corticosterone levels were significantly decreased only in long-term hypothyroidism. Long-term hypothyroid animals showed decreased corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) mRNA expression in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus under both basal and stress conditions, decreased CRH release from hypothalamic organ cultures after KCL and arginine vasopressin stimulation, as well as an increased number of anterior pituitary CRH receptors. In contrast, short-term hypothyroid rats showed changes in anterior pituitary function with an increased responsiveness to CRH that was associated with an increase in CRH receptors. Although both short- and long-term hypothyroidism was associated with significant decreases in adrenal weights, only long-term hypothyroid rats showed changes in adrenal function with a significant decrease of ACTH-induced corticosterone release from cultured adrenal cells. The data suggest that long-term hypothyroidism is associated with adrenal insufficiency with abnormalities in all three components of the HPA axis. Short-term hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is associated with increased pituitary corticotroph responsiveness to CRH.

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