Hypothyroidism induced by postnatal PTU (6-n-propyl-2-thiouracil) treatment decreases Sertoli cell number and spermatogenic efficiency in sexually mature pigs

Nathalia L.M. Lara, Valdemiro A. Silva, Hélio Chiarini-Garcia, Simone K. Garcia, Luciano Debeljuk, Rex A. Hess, Luiz R. França

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Studies with 6-n-propyl-2-thiouracil (PTU) in laboratory rodents have shown that transient neonatal hypothyroidism leads to increased Sertoli cell (SC) number, testis size and sperm production. However, scarce and inconclusive data are available for farm animals. In the present study, Piau pigs received PTU in a gel capsule containing 8 mg/kg of body weight for 14 weeks starting from the first week of age, whereas control animals received only the vehicle. Blood samples were collected during the experimental period for hormonal evaluation in the serum. The animals were orchiectomized at adulthood and had their testes used for histomorphometric analysis. Indicating that the PTU concentration used was effective in promoting hypothyroidism, PTU-treated pigs showed a 30% lower body weight and reduced thyroxine levels (p < 0.05) during the treatment period. At adulthood, the body weight was similar in both groups but, surprisingly, PTU-treated pigs showed 30% lower testis weight (p < 0.05). In general, treated pigs presented increased follicle-stimulating hormone levels, whereas testosterone levels tended to be lower from 9 to 23 weeks of age. No significant differences were observed for estradiol, Leydig cell volume and number, tubular diameter, SC number per gram of testis, SC efficiency and meiotic index. However, seminiferous tubule occupancy, total tubular length, SC number per testis, and daily sperm production per testis and per gram of testis (DSP/g/T) were significantly lower (p < 0.05) in PTU-treated pigs. Therefore, in contrast to laboratory rodents, our results showed that SC proliferation and DSP/g/T (spermatogenic efficiency) in Piau pigs is diminished by postnatal PTU treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113593
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • PTU
  • Pigs
  • Sertoli cell
  • Sperm production
  • Testis
  • Thyroid hormones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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