Cadmium-induced teratogenicity: Association with ROS-mediated endoplasmic reticulum stress in placenta

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Abstract

The placenta is essential for sustaining the growth of the fetus. An increased endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress has been associated with the impaired placental and fetal development. Cadmium (Cd) is a potent teratogen that caused fetal malformation and growth restriction. The present study investigated the effects of maternal Cd exposure on placental and fetal development. The pregnant mice were intraperitoneally injected with CdCl2 (4.5 mg/kg) on gestational day 9. As expected, maternal Cd exposure during early limb development significantly increased the incidences of forelimb ectrodactyly in fetuses. An obvious impairment in the labyrinth, a highly developed tissue of blood vessels, was observed in placenta of mice treated with CdCl2. In addition, maternal Cd exposure markedly repressed cell proliferation and increased apoptosis in placenta. An additional experiment showed that maternal Cd exposure significantly upregulated the expression of GRP78, an ER chaperone. Moreover, maternal Cd exposure induced the phosphorylation of placental eIF2α, a downstream molecule of PERK signaling. In addition, maternal Cd exposure significantly increased the level of placental CHOP, another target of PERK signaling, indicating that the unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling was activated in placenta of mice treated with CdCl2. Interestingly, alpha-phenyl-N-t-butylnitrone, a free radical spin-trapping agent, significantly alleviated Cd-induced placental ER stress and UPR. Taken together, these results suggest that reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated ER stress might be involved in Cd-induced impairment on placental and fetal development. Antioxidants may be used as pharmacological agents to protect against Cd-induced fetal malformation and growth restriction.

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