Schistosoma mansoni induces, in the vertebrate host, cutaneous production of interleukin-7 (IL-7), which is beneficial for parasite establishment and development. Infection of mice deficient in IL-7 expression leads to parasite dwarfism. Because similar findings were previously described in hypothyroid mice, this study aimed to elucidate the potential link between IL-7 and thyroid hormones (THs), using several models including hypo- and hyperthyroid mice, modified either transiently or constitutively. Mice treated with thyroxine led to increased worm numbers and development of giant worms, whereas an iodine-deficient diet reduced parasite maturation, egg laying, and liver pathology. Conversely, mice genetically deficient for either of the nuclear TH receptors displayed normal worm development despite modifications in hormone levels, suggesting that thyroxine action is mediated through host receptors. In addition, no modification of antibody titers has been evidenced in thyroxine-treated mice, whereas antibody levels were altered in transgenic animals. These observations suggest that the immune system is not likely to be involved in the modifications of parasite development reported in this study. Interestingly, concomitant treatment with IL-7 and thyroxine had a synergistic effect, leading to recovery of very large worms, thus raising questions about the complexity of interactions between IL-7 and metabolic hormones.

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