Postnatal fate of the ultimobranchial remnants in the rat thyroid gland



The ultimobranchial follicles (UBFs) are considered embryonic remnants from the ultimobranchial body (UBB). They are follicular structures that vary in size and appearance depending on the age of the rat. The main objective of this article was to study the progressive changes in shape, size, and frequency of the UBFs in the postnatal rat, from birth to old-age. To accomplish that objective, a systematic morphometric and incidental study of the UBF has been carried out in 110 Wistar rats of different ages and both sexes, divided into three groups: 1) young rats (5–90-day-old); 2) adult rats (6–15-month-old), and 3) old rats (18–24-month-old). The glands were serially sectioned and immunostained for calcitonin at five equidistant levels. According to our results, UBFs were observed in all thyroid glands but a more exhaustive sampling was occasionally necessary in male rats. In young rats, immature UBFs predominantly appeared whereas in adult rats, mature UBFs with cystic appearance and variable luminal content prevailed. We frequently found spontaneous anomalous UBFs in old rats, which we have termed as “ultimobranchial cystadenomata.” Additionally, in young rats, UBF areas significantly increased with age and they were larger when compared to that of normal thyroid follicles. Likewise, in adult rats, UBFs were significantly larger than normal thyroid follicles but only in female rats. In general, UBFs in females were also significantly larger than those found in male rats. Finally, all these differences related to UBFs together with a higher incidence in females of UB cystadenomata suggest a sexual dimorphism in regard to the destiny of these embryonic remnants during postnatal thyroid development. J. Morphol., 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.