Clinically, treatment of pregnant women at risk of preterm delivery with synthetic glucocorticoids accelerates fetal maturation. This study investigated the effect of maternal dexamethasone treatment, in clinically relevant doses, on plasma thyroid hormone concentrations and tissue deiodinase activities (D1, D2, and D3) in ewes and their fetuses. From 125 d of gestation (term 145 ± 2 d), pregnant ewes were injected twice im with either saline (2 ml of 0.9% NaCl, n = 11) or dexamethasone (2 x 12 mg in 2 ml of saline, n = 10) at 24-h intervals. Maternal dexamethasone treatment increased plasma T3and reverse T3(rT3), but not T4, concentrations in the fetuses. In the dexamethasone-exposed fetuses, hepatic D1 activity was higher, and renal and placental D3 activities were lower, than in the saline-exposed fetuses. In the ewes, plasma concentrations of T3and T4were reduced, and rT3increased, by dexamethasone treatment without any change in tissue deiodinase activity. Therefore, maternal dexamethasone treatment has different effects on the thyroid hormone axis of the pregnant ewe and fetus. In the fetus, the dexamethasone-induced rise in circulating T3may be due to both increased hepatic production of T3from T4, and reduced clearance of T3by the kidney and placenta. Changes in T3bioavailability may mediate some of the maturational effects of antenatal glucocorticoid treatment in the preterm fetus. Copyright,
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Forhead, A., Jellyman, J., Gardner, D., Giussani, D., Kaptein, E., Visser, T., & Fowden, A. (2007). Differential effects of maternal dexamethasone treatment on circulating thyroid hormone concentrations and tissue deiodinase activity in the pregnant ewe and fetus. Endocrinology, 148(2), 800–805. doi:10.1210/en.2006-1194