Seasonal trade-offs in reproduction and immunity are ubiquitous in nature. The mechanisms that govern transitions across seasonal physiological states appear to involve reciprocal switches in the local synthesis of thyroid hormone. In long-day (LD) summer-like conditions, increased hypothalamic triiodothyronine (T3) stimulates gonadal development. Alternatively, short-day (SD) winter-like conditions increase peripheral leukocytes and enhance multiple aspects of immune function. These data indicate that the localized effects of T3 in the hypothalamus and leukocytes are photoperiod dependent. We tested the hypothesis that increased peripheral T3 in SD conditions would increase aspects of reproductive physiology and inhibit immune function, whereas T3 injections in LD conditions would facilitate aspects of immune function (i.e., leukocytes). In addition, we also examined whether T3 regulates hypothalamic neuropeptide expression as well as hypothalamic and splenic proinflammatory cytokine expression. Adult male Siberian hamsters were maintained in LD (15L:9D) or transferred to SD (9L:15D) for 8 weeks. A subset of LD and SD hamsters was treated daily with 5 µg T3 for 2 weeks. LD and SD controls were injected with saline. Daily T3 administration in SD hamsters (SD+T3) resulted in a rapid and substantial decrease in peripheral leukocyte concentrations and stimulated gonadal development. T3 treatment in LD (LD+T3) had no effect on testicular volumes but significantly increased leukocyte concentrations. Molecular analyses revealed that T3 stimulated interleukin 1β messenger RNA (mRNA) expression in the spleen and inhibited RFamide Related Peptide-3 mRNA expression in the hypothalamus. Moreover, there was a photoperiod-dependent decrease in splenic tumor necrosis factor-α mRNA expression. These findings reveal that T3 has tissue-specific and photoperiod-dependent regulation of seasonal rhythms in reproduction and immune function.
Banks, R., Delibegovic, M., & Stevenson, T. J. (2016). Photoperiod- and Triiodothyronine-Dependent Regulation of Reproductive Neuropeptides, Proinflammatory Cytokines, and Peripheral Physiology in Siberian Hamsters (Phodopus sungorus). Journal of Biological Rhythms, 31(3), 299-307. https://doi.org/10.1177/0748730416637707