During development, gene expression of medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD), a nuclear-encoded mitochondrial enzyme that catalyses the first step of medium-chain fatty acid β-oxidation, is highly regulated in tissues in accordance with fatty acid utilization, but the factors involved in this regulation are largely unknown. To investigate a possible role of thyroid hormones, rat pups were made hypothyroid by the administration of propylthiouracyl to the mother from day 12 of gestation, and their kidneys, heart and liver were removed on postnatal day 16 to determine MCAD mRNA abundance, protein level and enzyme activity. Similar experiments were run in 3,3′,5-tri-iodothyronine (T3)-replaced hypothyroid (1 μg of T3/100 g body weight from postnatal day 5 to 15) and euthyroid pups. Hypothyroidism led to an increase in MCAD mRNA abundance in kidney and a decrease in abundance in heart, but had no effect in liver. The protein levels and enzyme activity were lowered in hypothyroid heart and kidney, suggesting that hypothyroidism affects post-transcriptional steps of gene expression in the kidney. All the effects of hypothyroidism were completely reversed in both heart and kidney by T3 replacement. Injection of a single T3 dose into 16-day-old euthyroid rats also led to tissue-specific changes in mRNA abundance. Nuclear run-on assays performed from hypothyroid and hypothyroid plus T3 rats showed that T3 stimulates MCAD gene transcription in heart and represses it in the kidney. These results indicate that the postnatal rise in circulating T3 is essential to the developmental regulation of the MCAD gene in vivo.

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