Testing the short- and long-term effects of elevated prenatal exposure to different forms of thyroid hormones

Tom Sarraude*, Ton Groothuis, Suvi Ruuskanen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Maternal thyroid hormones (THs) are known to be crucial in embryonic development in humans, but their influence on other, especially wild, animals remains poorly understood. So far, the studies that experimentally investigated the consequences of maternal THs focused on short-term effects, while early organisational effects with long-term consequences, as shown for other prenatal hormones, could also be expected. In this study, we aimed at investigating both the short- and long-term effects of prenatal THs in a bird species, the Japanese quail Coturnix japonica. We experimentally elevated yolk TH content (the prohormone T4, and its active metabolite T3, as well as a combination of both hormones). We analysed hatching success, embryonic development, offspring growth and oxidative stress as well as their potential organisational effects on reproduction, moult and oxidative stress in adulthood. We found that eggs injected with T4 had a higher hatching success compared with control eggs, suggesting conversion of T4 into T3 by the embryo. We detected no evidence for other short-term or long-term effects of yolk THs. These results suggest that yolk THs are important in the embryonic stage of precocial birds, but other short- and long-term consequences remain unclear. Research on maternal THs will greatly benefit from studies investigating how embryos use and respond to this maternal signalling. Long-term studies on prenatal THs in other taxa in the wild are needed for a better understanding of this hormone-mediated maternal pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10175
Number of pages25
JournalPeerJ
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16-Oct-2020

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