The effects of neonatal hypothyroidism on the number of Leydig cells were studied in neonatal Wistar rats. Moderate or severe hypothyroidism were induced during neonatal life by giving different amounts of methimazole (MMI; 0.05% or 0.1%) in the drinking water of pregnant and lactating dams. Rats were sacrificed on day 21 of postnatal life. Severely hypothyroid rats had approximately 45-fold higher serum thyrotropin (TSH) values and demonstrated approximately a 65% decrease in testes weight (p < 0.05) and the number of Leydig cells. However, in moderately hypothyroid rats, in which serum TSH was only approximately 16-fold higher, testicular weight was normal and the number of Leydig cells almost doubled (p < 0.01). There were no significant differences between the serum-free testosterone levels of the moderately and severely hypothyroid rats versus controls. Serum levels of 3α-androstanediol glucuronide, although decreased to less than 10% in severely hypothyroid rats (p < 0.01), were not changed by mild hypothyroidism. The number of Sertoli cells was increased in moderately hypothyroid rats versus controls (p < 0.05) and even further increased in severely hypothyroid rats (p < 0.05). We conclude that (1) severe neonatal hypothyroidism impairs the development and function of the testes and (2) moderate neonatal hypothyroidism stimulates the proliferation of Leydig cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism