Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the increase and sustained expression of pituitary thyrotropin (TSH) in the presence of elevated plasma thyroid hormone (TH) concentrations at metamorphic climax in amphibians. It has been proposed that the negative feedback of TH on TSH is inoperative until metamorphic climax, and that it is established at this time by the upregulation of pituitary deiodinase type II (DII); DII converts thyroxine (T(4)) to 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine (T(3)). However, earlier investigators, using indirect measures of TSH, reported that TH negative feedback on TSH was functional in premetamorphic tadpoles. In an effort to understand pituitary TSH regulation during amphibian metamorphosis, we analyzed multiple pituitary genes known or hypothesized to be involved in TSH regulation in tadpoles of Xenopus laevis. Tadpole pituitary explant cultures were used to examine direct negative feedback on TSH mRNA expression. Negative feedback is operative in the early prometamorphic tadpole pituitary and both T(3) and T(4) can downregulate TSH mRNA expression throughout metamorphosis. The expression of both DII and TH receptor betaA mRNAs increased during development and peaked at climax; however, these increases coincided with similar increases in deiodinase type III, which inactivates TH. Moreover, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) receptors, CRF binding protein and thyrotropin-releasing hormone receptor type 2 mRNA expression also peaked at climax. Our data suggest that the regulation of TSH is more complex than the timing of DII expression, and likely involves a balance between stimulation of TSH synthesis and secretion by neuropeptides (e.g. CRF) of hypothalamic or pituitary origin, increased pituitary sensitivity to neuropeptides through upregulation of their receptors, and intrapituitary TH levels.
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