The Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a salamander species that does not undergo metamorphosis, resulting in the retention of juvenile characteristics in the mature breeding stage (paedomorphosis). Here we review the endocrinological studies investigating the proximate cause of axolotl paedomorphosis with a focus on the hypothalamo-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis. It is well established that axolotl paedomorphosis is a consequence of low activity of the HPT axis. The pituitary hormone thyrotropin (TSH) is capable of inducing metamorphosis in the axolotl, which indicates that all processes and interactions in the HPT axis below the pituitary level are functional, but that TSH release is impaired. In metamorphosing species, TSH secretion is largely controlled by the hypothalamic neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which seems to have lost its thyrotropic activity in the axolotl. However, preliminary experiments have not yet confirmed a role for faulty CRH signalling in axolotl paedomorphosis. Other hypothalamic factors and potential pituitary inhibitors need to be investigated to identify their roles in amphibian metamorphosis and axolotl paedomorphosis.
Keywords: Amphibian; Axolotl; Corticotropin-releasing hormone; Metamorphosis; Neoteny; Paedomorphosis; Thyrotropin.
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