Peri-conceptional changes in maternal exposure to sewage sludge chemicals disturbs fetal thyroid gland development in sheep

Sabine Hombach-Klonisch, Adrian Danescu, Farhana Begum, Maria R Amezaga, Stewart M Rhind, Richard M Sharpe, Neil P Evans, Michelle Bellingham, Corinne Cotinot, Beatrice Mandon-Pepin, Paul A Fowler, Thomas Klonisch

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Ewes were exposed to sewage sludge-fertilised pastures in a study designed investigate pre-conceptual and/or gestational exposure to environmental chemicals. The in-utero impact on fetal thyroid morphology and function at day 110 (of 145) of pregnancy was then determined. Pre-conceptual exposure increased the relative thyroid organ weights in male fetuses. The number of thyroid follicles in thyroids of fetuses after pre-conceptual or gestational exposure was reduced. This correlated with an increase in Ki67 positive cells. Pre-conceptual exposure to sewage sludge reduced small blood vessels in fetal thyroids. Thyroid tissues of exposed fetuses contained regions where mature angio-follicular units were reduced exhibiting decreased immunostaining for sodium-iodide symporter (NIS). Fetal plasma levels of fT3 and fT4 in exposed animals, however, were not different from controls suggesting compensatory changes in the thyroid gland to maintain homeostasis in exposed fetuses. The regional aberrations in thyroid morphology may impact on the post-natal life of the exposed offspring.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-108
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
Issue number1-2
Early online date4 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2013


  • endocrine disruptors
  • thyroid gland
  • sheep
  • fetal
  • sewage sludge
  • development


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