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IM Evans, MR Pickard, AK Sinha, AJ Leonard, DC Sampson, and RP Ekins

Maternal hypothyroidism during pregnancy impairs brain function in human and rat offspring, but little is known regarding the influence of maternal hyperthyroidism on neurodevelopment. We have previously shown that the expression of neuronal and glial differentiation markers in fetal brain is compromised in hypothyroid rat dam pregnancies and have now therefore extended this investigation to hyperthyroid rat dams. Study groups comprised partially thyroidectomised dams, implanted with osmotic pumps infusing either vehicle (TX dams) or a supraphysiological dose of thyroxine (T4) (HYPER dams), and euthyroid dams infused with vehicle (N dams). Cytoskeletal protein abundance was determined in fetal brain at 21 days of gestation by immunoblot analysis. Relative to N dams, circulating total T4 levels were reduced to around one-third in TX dams but were doubled in HYPER dams. Fetal brain weight was increased in HYPER dams, whereas litter size and fetal body weight were reduced in TX dams. Glial fibrillary acidic protein expression was similar in HYPER and TX dams, being reduced in both cases relative to N dams. alpha-Internexin (INX) abundance was reduced in HYPER dams and increased in TX dams, whereas neurofilament 68 (NF68) exhibited increased abundance in HYPER dams. Furthermore, INX was inversely related to - and NF68 directly related to - maternal serum total T4 levels, independently of fetal brain weight. In conclusion, maternal hyperthyroidism compromises the expression of neuronal cytoskeletal proteins in late fetal brain, suggestive of a pattern of accelerated neuronal differentiation.