Hyperglycemia and hypoxia are interrelated in their teratogenic mechanism: studies on cultured rat embryos.
BACKGROUND Diabetes teratogenicity seems to be related to embryonic oxidative stress and the extent of the embryonic damage can apparently be reduced by antioxidants. We have studied the mechanism by which antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, reduce diabetes-induced embryonic damage. We therefore compared the antioxidant capacity of 10.5-day-old rat embryos and their yolk sacs cultured for 28h in diabetic culture medium with or without vitamins C and E. METHODS The embryos were cultured in 90% rat serum to which 2mg/ml glucose, 2mg/ml beta hydroxy butyrate (BHOB) and 10 microg/ml of acetoacetate were added. Rat embryos were also cultured in a diabetic medium with 25 microg/ml of vitamin E and 50 microg/ml of vitamin C. Control embryos were cultured in normal rat serum with or without vitamins C and E. RESULTS Decreased activity of Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD) and of catalase (CAT) in the "diabetic" embryos and their yolk sacs, and reduced concentrations of low molecular weight antioxidant (LMWA) were found. Under these conditions we also found a decrease in vitamin C and vitamin E concentrations in the embryos, as measured by HPLC. In situ hybridization for SOD mRNA showed a marked reduction of SOD mRNA in the brain, spinal cord, heart and liver of embryos cultured in diabetic medium in comparison to controls. Following the addition of vitamins C and E to the diabetic culture medium, SOD and CAT activity, the concentrations of LMWA, the levels of vitamin C and E and the expression of SOD mRNA in the embryos and yolk sacs returned to normal. CONCLUSIONS Diabetic metabolic factors seem to have a direct effect on embryonic SOD gene and perhaps genes of other antioxidant enzymes, reducing embryonic endogenous antioxidant defense mechanism. This in turn may cause a depletion of the LMWA, such as vitamins C and E. The addition of these vitamins normalizes the embryonic antioxidant defense mechanism, reducing the damage caused by the diabetic environment.