5 years ago

Maternal photoperiod programs hypothalamic thyroid status via the fetal pituitary gland [Physiology]

Maternal photoperiod programs hypothalamic thyroid status via the fetal pituitary gland [Physiology]
David Hazlerigg, Catherine Jaeger, Cristina Saenz de Miera, Valerie Simonneaux, Beatrice Bothorel

In wild mammals, offspring development must anticipate forthcoming metabolic demands and opportunities. Within species, different developmental strategies may be used, dependent on when in the year conception takes place. This phenotypic flexibility is initiated before birth and is linked to the pattern of day length (photoperiod) exposure experienced by the mother during pregnancy. This programming depends on transplacental communication via the pineal hormone melatonin. Here, we show that, in the Siberian hamster (Phodopus sungorus), the programming effect of melatonin is mediated by the pars tuberalis (PT) of the fetal pituitary gland, before the fetal circadian system and autonomous melatonin production is established. Maternal melatonin acts on the fetal PT to control expression of thyroid hormone deiodinases in ependymal cells (tanycytes) of the fetal hypothalamus, and hence neuroendocrine output. This mechanism sets the trajectory of reproductive and metabolic development in pups and has a persistent effect on their subsequent sensitivity to the photoperiod. This programming effect depends on tanycyte sensitivity to thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is dramatically and persistently increased by short photoperiod exposure in utero. Our results define the role of the fetal PT in developmental programming of brain function by maternal melatonin and establish TSH signal transduction as a key substrate for the encoding of internal calendar time from birth to puberty.

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