A transient window of hypothyroidism alters neural progenitor cells and results in abnormal brain development

Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 15;9(1):4662. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-40249-7.


Cortical heterotopias are clusters of ectopic neurons in the brain and are associated with neurodevelopmental disorders like epilepsy and learning disabilities. We have previously characterized the robust penetrance of a heterotopia in a rat model, induced by thyroid hormone (TH) disruption during gestation. However, the specific mechanism by which maternal TH insufficiency results in this birth defect remains unknown. Here we first determined the developmental window susceptible to endocrine disruption and describe a cellular mechanism responsible for heterotopia formation. We show that five days of maternal goitrogen treatment (10 ppm propylthiouracil) during the perinatal period (GD19-PN2) induces a periventricular heterotopia in 100% of the offspring. Beginning in the early postnatal brain, neurons begin to aggregate near the ventricles of treated animals. In parallel, transcriptional and architectural changes of this region were observed including decreased Sonic hedgehog (Shh) expression, abnormal cell adhesion, and altered radial glia morphology. As the ventricular epithelium is juxtaposed to two sources of brain THs, the cerebrospinal fluid and vasculature, this progenitor niche may be especially susceptible to TH disruption. This work highlights the spatiotemporal vulnerabilities of the developing brain and demonstrates that a transient period of TH perturbation is sufficient to induce a congenital abnormality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antithyroid Agents / adverse effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hypothyroidism / metabolism*
  • Hypothyroidism / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Thyroid Hormones / metabolism


  • Antithyroid Agents
  • Thyroid Hormones