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R Singh, G Upadhyay, S Kumar, A Kapoor, A Kumar, M Tiwari, and MM Godbole

Thyroid hormone (TH) deficiency results in delayed proliferation and migration of cerebellar granule cells. Although extensive cell loss during the development of the cerebellum under hypothyroid conditions is known, its nature and its mechanism are poorly understood. Bcl-2 family gene expression is known to determine the fate of cells to undergo apoptosis. We evaluated the effect of hypothyroidism on Bcl-2 family gene expression in the developing rat cerebellum. Electrophoresis and Western blotting were used to analyze DNA fragmentation and expression of DNA fragmentation factor (DFF-45), Bcl-2, Bcl-xL and Bax genes respectively. In the hypothyroid condition, extensive DNA fragmentation and enhanced cleavage of DFF-45 were seen throughout development (postnatal day 0 to day 24) and adulthood whereas they were absent in the euthyroid state. The anti-apoptotic genes Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL were down-regulated and the pro-apoptotic gene Bax was expressed at higher levels compared with the euthyroid state. These results suggest that normal levels of TH prevent cerebellar apoptosis to a large extent, whereas hypothyroidism not only increases the extent but also the duration of apoptosis by down-regulating the anti-apoptotic genes and maintaining a high level of the pro-apoptotic gene Bax.