The pituitary-ovarian axis was studied after withdrawal of thyroid hormone in 131I-radiothyroidectomized adult female rats. Oestrous cycles became prolonged and irregular within 2 weeks after the supply of thyroid hormone was stopped. If an LH surge occurred in hypothyroid rats on the day of vaginal pro-oestrus it was significantly greater in rats which had been made hypothyroid for 4–5 weeks than in controls; in hypothyroid rats with an LH surge on pro-oestrus, plasma progesterone showed a rise similar to that in controls at pro-oestrus; the ovulation rate was decreased in hypothyroid rats. About half of the rats from which blood was sampled daily in the afternoon between 7 and 18 days after tri-iodothyronine (T3) withdrawal had 1 day of pro-oestrus; on this day the LH surge was higher than in controls. On days 2 and 1 before and days 1 and 2 after this pro-oestrus, plasma progesterone was similar to that of controls on days 2 and 1 before and days 1 and 2 after pro-oestrus respectively. However, progesterone was higher in the period before and after these days. The other hypothyroid rats showed no pro-oestrus and no LH surge during this period, while their plasma progesterone levels were high on all days. On the morning of day 10 after T3 withdrawal and 5 days after the preceding pro-oestrus, most hypothyroid rats had high progesterone and low oestradiol plasma levels. In these rats, injection of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone caused a relatively small increase in LH; it did not stimulate the secretion of oestradiol or progesterone, and it did not induce ovulation. It was concluded that hypothyroidism induces major changes in the secretion of steroids by corpora lutea and growing follicles. Whether the changed steroid metabolism is the primary cause of the observed prolongation of the oestrous cycles, the increased pro-oestrous LH surge and the reduced ovulation rate remains to be investigated.
Journal of Endocrinology (1995) 146, 87–94
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