Excess folate during adolescence suppresses thyroid function with permanent deficits in motivation and spatial memory

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Abstract

Cognitive and memory deficits can be caused or exacerbated by dietary folate deficiency, which has been combatted by the addition of folate to grains and dietary supplements. The recommended dose of the B9 vitamin folate is 400 µg/day for adolescents and non-pregnant adults, and consumption above the recommended daily allowance is not considered to be detrimental. However, the effects of excess folate have not been tested in adolescence when neuro and endocrine development suggest possible vulnerability to long-term cognitive effects. We administered folate-supplemented (8.0 mg folic acid/kg diet) or control lab chow (2.7 mg folic acid/kg diet) to rats ad libitum from 30 to 60 days of age, and subsequently tested their motivation and learning and memory in the Morris water maze. We found that folate-supplemented animals had deficits in motivation and spatial memory, but they showed no changes of the learning- and memory-related molecules growth-associated protein-43 or Gs-α subunit protein in the hippocampus. They had decreased levels of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) in the periphery and decreased protein levels of thyroid receptor-α1 and -α2 (TRα1 and TRα2) in the hippocampus. The latter may have been due to an observed increase of cytosine–phosphate–guanosine island methylation within the putative thyroid hormone receptor-α promoter, which we have mapped for the first time in the rat. Overall, folate supplementation in adolescence led to motivational and spatial memory deficits that may have been mediated by suppressed thyroid hormone function in the periphery and hippocampus.

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