Oligodendrocyte development and myelination are under thyroid hormone control. In this study we analysed the effects of chronic manipulation of thyroid status on the expression of a wide spectrum of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) markers and myelin basic protein (MBP) in the subventricular zone (SVZ), olfactory bulb and optic nerve, and on neural stem cell (NSC) lineage in adult rats. Hypo- and hyperthyroidism were induced in male rats, by propyl-thio-uracil (PTU) and L-thyroxin (T4) treatment, respectively. Hypothyroidism increased and hyperthyroidism downregulated proliferation in the SVZ and olfactory bulb (Ki67 immunohistochemistry and Western blotting, bromodeoxyuridine uptake). Platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFalpha-R) and MBP mRNA levels decreased in the optic nerve of hypothyroid rats; the same also occurred at the level of MBP protein. Hyperthyroidism slightly upregulates selected markers such as NG2 in the olfactory bulb. The lineage of cells derived from primary cultures of NSC prepared from the forebrain of adult hypo- and hyperthyroid also differs from those derived from control animals. Although no difference of in vitro proliferation of NSCs was observed in the presence of epidermal growth factor, maturation of oligodendrocytes (defined by process number and length) was enhanced in hyperthyroidism, suggesting a more mature state than in control animals. This difference was even greater when compared with the hypothyroid group, the morphology of which suggested a delay in differentiation. These results indicate that thyroid hormone affects NSC and OPC proliferation and maturation also in adulthood.