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Keywords:

  • thyroid hormone;
  • thyroid hormone receptor;
  • L-thyroxine;
  • 3,5,3′-L-triiodothyronine;
  • zebrafish;
  • larval development

Abstract In zebrafish, like many other teleost species, the development and differentiation of many major organs continue unabated into the yolk-sac larval stage before culminating in a free-swimming larva capable of exogenous feeding. We investigated the role of thyroid hormone (TH) in this important embryonic to larval transitory phase. Thyroid hormone receptor (TR) α and β mRNAs are expressed during the early stages of zebrafish embryonic development. Beginning from the midblastula stage, the level of TRβ mRNAs increases dramatically and is maintained until the end of the transitory phase. Excessive exogenous thyroxine (T4; 30 nM) is toxic and causes severe developmental defects. Cotreatment of embryos with amiodarone, an antagonist of TR, and goitrogen methimazole (MMI) lead to severe retardation in the maturation of the gastrointestinal system, swim bladder, and the lower jaw cartilages and the resorption of the yolk sac. The developmental arrest is lethal, and treated larvae do not survive beyond 7 day postfertilization (dpf), but can be completely rescued by the presence of 10 nM T4. We propose that the embryonic to larval transitory phase in many teleost species is characterized by its dependency on the timely synthesis of TH and the concomitant autoinductive increase in TRβ mRNA levels.