, Volume 322, Issue 1, pp 133-140
Date: 23 Apr 2005

Understanding the role of thyroid hormone in Sertoli cell development: a mechanistic hypothesis

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More than a decade of research has shown that Sertoli cell proliferation is regulated by thyroid hormone. Neonatal hypothyroidism lengthens the period of Sertoli cell proliferation, leading to increases in Sertoli cell number, testis weight, and daily sperm production (DSP) when euthyroidism is re-established. In contrast, the neonatal Sertoli cell proliferative period is shortened under hyperthyroid conditions, but the mechanism by which thyroid hormone is able to negatively regulate Sertoli cell proliferation has been unclear. Recent progress in the understanding of the cell cycle has provided the opportunity to dissect the molecular targets responsible for thyroid-hormone-mediated effects on Sertoli cell proliferation. In this review, we discuss recent results indicating a critical role for the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (CDKI) p27Kip1 and p21Cip1 in establishing Sertoli cell number, testis weight, and DSP, and the ability of thyroid hormone to modulate these CDKIs. Based on these recent results, we propose a working hypothesis for the way in which thyroid hormone regulates the withdrawal of the cell cycle by controlling CDKI degradation. Finally, although Sertoli cells have been shown to have two biologically active thyroid hormone receptor (TR) isoforms, TRα1 and TRβ1, experiments with transgenic mice lacking TRα or TRβ illustrate that only one TR mediates thyroid hormone effects in neonatal Sertoli cells. Although significant gaps in our knowledge still remain, advances have been made toward appreciation of the molecular sequence of events that occur when thyroid hormone stimulates Sertoli cell maturation.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of this work by the NIH, USDA, the University of Illinois, the Lalor Foundation, and the Thanis A. Field Endowment at the University of Illinois. D.R. Holsberger was supported by postdoctoral fellowships from the Lalor Foundation and Reproductive Biology Research Training Program (NIH grant T32 HD07028), University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.