In this study, we tried to elucidate the changes in thyroid hormone (TH) receptor β2 (TRβ2) expression at the different levels of the hypothalamo–pituitary–thyroidal (HPT) axis during the last week of chicken embryonic development and hatching, a period characterized by an augmented activity of the HPT axis. We quantified TRβ2 mRNA in retina, pineal gland, and the major control levels of the HPT axis – brain, pituitary, and thyroid gland – at day 18 of incubation, and found the most abundant mRNA content in retina and pituitary. Thyroidal TRβ2 mRNA content increased dramatically between embryonic day 14 and 1 day post-hatch. In pituitary and hypothalamus, TRβ2 mRNA expression rose gradually, in parallel with increases in plasma thyroxine concentrations. Using
in situhybridization, we have demonstrated the presence of TRβ2 mRNA throughout the diencephalon and confirmed the elevation in TRβ2 mRNA expression in the hypophyseal thyrotropes. In vitroincubation with THs caused a down-regulation of TRβ2 mRNA levels in embryonic but not in post-hatch pituitaries. The observed expression patterns in pituitary and diencephalon may point to substantial changes in TRβ2-mediated TH feedback active during the perinatal period. The strong rise in thyroidal TRβ2 mRNA content could be indicative of an augmented modulation of thyroid development and/or function by THs toward and after hatching. Finally, THs proved to exert an age-dependent effect on pituitary TRβ2 mRNA expression.