Effects of thyroid hormone manipulation on pre-nuptial molt, luteinizing hormone and testicular growth in male white-crowned sparrows ( Zonotrichia leuchophrys gambelii )
Highlights • Inhibition of thyroid hormone abolishes pre-nuptial molt and gonadal growth. • Exogenous T4 or T3 restores pre-nuptial molt. • Exogenous T4 but not T3 restores gonadal growth. • Methimazole inhibition of thyroid production increases luteinizing hormone. Most seasonal species rely on the annual change in day length as the primary cue to appropriately time major spring events such as pre-nuptial molt and breeding. Thyroid hormones are thought to be involved in the regulation of both of these spring life history stages. Here we investigated the effects of chemical inhibition of thyroid hormone production using methimazole, subsequently coupled with either triiodothyronine (T3) or thyroxine (T4) replacement, on the photostimulation of pre-nuptial molt and breeding in Gambel's white-crowned sparrows ( Zonotrichia leuchophrys gambelii ). Suppression of thyroid hormones completely prevented pre-nuptial molt, while both T3 and T4 treatment restored normal patterns of molt in thyroid hormone-suppressed birds. Testicular recrudescence was blocked by methimazole, and restored by T4 but not T3, in contrast to previous findings demonstrating central action of T3 in the photostimulation of breeding. Methimazole and replacement treatments elevated plasma luteinizing hormone levels compared to controls. These data are partially consistent with existing theories on the role of thyroid hormones in the photostimulation of breeding, while highlighting the possibility of additional feedback pathways. Thus we suggest that regulation of the hypothalamic pituitary gonad axis that controls breeding may be more complex than previously considered.
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