Tolbutamide: Placental Transfer, Tissue Distribution, and Metabolic Effects in Murine Embryos

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Tolbutamide is a sulfonylurea oral hypoglycaemic agent with suspected teratogenicity in humans and demonstrated teratogenicity in laboratory animals, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. This study examined maternal-to-conceptus tolbutamide transfer on gestational days 9.5 and 10.5 and drug concentration in embryonic head, heart, and trunk regions on gestational day 10.5 after maternal dosing in mouse. Embryos exposed to tolbutamide in vitro on gestational day 8.5 were assayed for glucose uptake, glycolysis, and protein content after 6, 12, and 24 hr. Dose-dependent tolbutamide transfer from maternal serum to extraembryonic fluid occurred on gestational day 9.5 and 10.5, with highest tolbutamide levels in embryonic heart on gestational day 10.5. In vitro tolbutamide exposure on gestational day 8.5 decreased glycolysis at 6 hr, increased glycolysis at 24 hr, and had no effect on glucose uptake at 6, 12, or 24 hr. Embryonic protein content reflected growth retardation after 24 hr tolbutamide exposure. Thus, mouse embryos are directly exposed to tolbutamide after maternal dosing on gestational day 9.5 and 10.5, with concentration of drug within embryonic heart. Tolbutamide-induced changes in glucose metabolism are less apparent in whole embryos than reported in adult tissues.

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