Thyrotropic activity of corticotropin-releasing hormone in an altricial bird species, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) Academic Article uri icon


  • In chicken, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) acts as a thyrotropin (TSH)-releasing factor, mediated by the type 2 CRH receptor (CRHR2) on the thyrotropes of the pituitary gland. It is not known whether CRH also controls TSH release in non-precocial avian species that have a different pattern of thyroidal activity during their life cycle. Therefore, we investigated the TSH-releasing capacity of CRH in an altricial species, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). Cellular localisation of type 1 CRH receptor (CRHR1) and CRHR2 mRNA in the pituitary was determined by in situ hybridisation, combined with immunohistochemical staining of pituitary thyrotropes. In addition, isolated pituitary glands were stimulated with CRH to determine the effect on TSH release. Lastly, the mRNA levels of hormones and receptors involved in the control of thyroidal and adrenal function were measured by qPCR in zebra finch chicks between hatching and fledging, and in adults. Most of the hypophyseal CRHR2 mRNA co-localised with thyrotropes, whereas CRHR1 mRNA was found inbetween thyrotropes. Pituitary glands stimulated in vitro with CRH showed increased secretion of TSH-like activity. Pituitary CRHR2 mRNA expression decreased while pituitary TSHB mRNA and brain CRH mRNA levels increased towards fledging, similar as seen in chicken hatching. These results suggest that CRHR2 expressed on thyrotropes is likely mediating CRH-induced TSH release in altricial avian species like it does in precocial species, and that the increased thyroid hormone levels towards fledging in altricial birds are the result of increased hypothalamic stimulation, in which the thyrotropic activity of CRH may initially play a role.

publication date

  • 2018