The thyroperoxidase (TPO) enzyme is expressed by the thyroid follicular cells and is required for thyroid hormone synthesis. In turn, thyroid hormones are essential for brain development, thus inhibition of TPO in early life can have life-long consequences for brain function. If environmental chemicals with the capacity to inhibit TPO in vitro can also alter brain development in vivo through thyroid hormone dependent mechanisms, however, remains unknown. In this study we show that the in vitro TPO inhibiting pesticide amitrole alters neuronal migration and induces periventricular heterotopia; a thyroid hormone dependent brain malformation. Perinatal exposure to amitrole reduced pup serum thyroxine (T4) concentrations to less than 50% of control animals and this insufficiency led to heterotopia formation in the 16-day old pup’s brain. Two other in vitro TPO inhibitors, 2-mercaptobenzimidazole and cyanamide, caused reproductive toxicity and had only minor sporadic effects on the thyroid hormone system; consequently, they did not cause heterotopia. This is the first demonstration of an environmental chemical causing heterotopia, a brain malformation until now only reported for rodent studies with the anti-thyroid drugs propylthiouracil and methimazole. Our results highlight that certain TPO-inhibiting environmental chemicals can alter brain development through thyroid hormone dependent mechanisms. Improved understanding of the effects on the brain as well as the conditions under which chemicals can perturb brain development will be key to protect human health.
- thyroid hormone
- endocrine disruption