The scientists used transgenic mice heterozygous for a mutant form of the thyroid hormone receptor alpha1 that has about a ten-fold reduced affinity for its natural ligand, TH. They observed that reduced TH signaling during development lead to distinct neurological abnormalities in adulthood:
extreme anxiety, reduced memory and locomotor dysfunction.
Interestingly, the anxiety and memory impairment could be suppressed through dietary supplementation of the adult mice with TH (supplementation was not effective when administered as a juvenile).
Conversely, the uncoordination could be normalized through TH injections at juvenile (but not adult) stages. Since most psychiatric diseases are thought to have a polygenic background, these discoveries may have valuable implications for the diagnosis and treatment of certain mood disorders.
The results were published in an article “Anxiety, memory impairment and locomotor dysfunction caused by a mutant thyroid hormone receptor alpha 1 can be ameliorated by T3 treatment” in the prestigious scientific journal Genes & Development (http://www.genesdev.org/) on August 30. Vennström was the leader of the project.