Morphological and functional changes in pituitary-thyroid axis following prolonged exposure of female rats to constant light

Marko Miler, Branka Sošić-Jurjević, Nataša Nestorović, Nataša Ristić, Ivana Medigović, Svetlana Savin, Verica Milošević
Journal of Morphology 2014, 275 (10): 1161-72
Light regulates numerous physiological functions and synchronizes them with the environment, in part by adjusting secretion of different hormones. We hypothesized that constant light (CL) would disturb pituitary-thyroid axis. Our aim was to determine morphological and functional changes in this endocrine system in such extreme conditions and, based on the obtained results, to propose the underlying mechanism(s). Starting from the thirtieth postnatal day, female Wistar rats were exposed to CL (600 lx) for the following 95 days. The controls were maintained under the regular laboratory lighting conditions. After decapitation, pituitaries and thyroids were prepared for further histomorphometric, immunohistochemical, and immunofluorescence examinations. Concentration of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), total T4 and T3 (TH) were determined. Thyroid tissue of light-treated rats was characterized by microfollicular structure. We detected no change in total thyroid volume, localization and accumulation of thyroglobulin, thyroid peroxidase, and sodium-iodide symporter in the follicular epithelium of CL rats. The volume of follicular epithelium and activation index were increased, while volume of the colloid and serum levels of TH decreased. In the pituitary, the relative intensity of TSH β-immunofluorescence signal within the cytoplasm of thyrotrophs increased, but their average cell volume and the relative volume density decreased. Serum TSH was unaltered. We conclude that exposure of female rats to CL induced alterations in pituitary-thyroid axis. Thyroid tissue was characterized by microfollicular structure. Serum TH levels were reduced without accompanying increase in serum TSH. We hypothesize that increased secretion and clearance of TH together with unchanged or even decreased hormonal synthesis, resulted in decreased serum TH levels in CL group. We assume this decrease consequently led to increased synthesis and/or accumulation of pituitary TSH. However, decreased average TSH cell volume and relative volume density, together with unchanged serum TSH, point to additional, negative regulation of thyrotrophs.

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