Thyroid hormone controls the onset of androgen sensitivity in the developing larynx of Xenopus laevis. Academic Article uri icon


  • Gonadal differentiation, the onset of androgen-stimulated laryngeal growth and the genesis of a sex difference in laryngeal innervation, all temporally coincide with thyroid hormone (TH)-induced metamorphosis in Xenopus laevis. To explore the role TH plays in the ontogeny of the Xenopus androgen-sensitive vocal neuromuscular system, we examined gonadal and laryngeal development in tadpoles in which metamorphosis had been blocked by treatment with the thyroxine synthesis inhibitor propylthiouracil (PTU). PTU treatment did not arrest gonadal differentiation. Testes from PTU-treated male tadpoles had seminiferous tubules and advanced stage male germ cells, while in females stage 1 oocytes were present. In contrast to the gonads, PTU did block morphological development of the larynx. Tadpoles treated with PTU for 50 or 100 days had larynges which structurally resembled those of stage 54 control tadpoles. PTU-treated animals did not exhibit the extensive development of the laryngeal cartilage seen in untreated animals. Laryngeal cartilages of hypothyroid tadpoles exhibited low density and minimal patterning of chondrocytes; the complex lumen and marked expansion of the dilator muscles characteristic of 50- and 100-day untreated animals were absent. Laryngeal growth evoked by exposure to exogenous androgen (dihydrotestosterone) was entirely prevented by PTU treatment. Hypothyroid tadpoles did not exhibit the decline in laryngeal nerve axon number characteristic of age-matched controls, nor were laryngeal nerve axon numbers sexually dimorphic. PTU treatment also interfered with the myelination of laryngeal axons. We conclude that while gonadal differentiation is independent of TH, androgen sensitive laryngeal development and sexually dimorphic laryngeal innervation require exposure to secreted TH.

publication date

  • May 25, 1996