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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2013 Aug;34(3):157-66. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2013.04.002. Epub 2013 May 6.

Thyroid hormone and seasonal regulation of reproduction.

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Laboratory of Animal Physiology, Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences, Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan.


Organisms living outside the tropics use changes in photoperiod to adapt to seasonal changes in the environment. Several models have contributed to an understanding of this mechanism at the molecular and endocrine levels. Subtropical birds are excellent models for the study of these mechanisms because of their rapid and dramatic response to changes in photoperiod. Studies of birds have demonstrated that light is perceived by a deep brain photoreceptor and long day-induced thyrotropin (TSH) from the pars tuberalis (PT) of the pituitary gland causes local thyroid hormone activation within the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH). The locally generated bioactive thyroid hormone, T₃, regulates seasonal gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion, and hence gonadotropin secretion. In mammals, the eyes are the only photoreceptor involved in photoperiodic time perception and nocturnal melatonin secretion provides an endocrine signal of photoperiod to the PT to regulate TSH. Here, I review the current understanding of the hypothalamic mechanisms controlling seasonal reproduction in mammals and birds.


Circadian rhythm; Deep brain photoreceptor; Mediobasal hypothalamus; Opsin; Pars tuberalis; Photoperiodism; Thyroid hormone; Thyrotropin

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