Early Dexamethasone Treatment Induces Placental Apoptosis in Sheep
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Glucocorticoid treatment given in late pregnancy in sheep resulted in altered placental development and function. An imbalance of placental survival and apoptotic factors resulting in an increased rate of apoptosis may be involved. We have now investigated the effects of dexamethasone (DEX) in early pregnancy on binucleate cells (BNCs), placental apoptosis, and fetal sex as a determinant of these responses. Pregnant ewes carrying singleton fetuses (n = 105) were randomized to control (n = 56, 2 mL saline/ewe) or DEX treatment (n = 49, intramuscular injections of 0.14 mg/kg ewe weight per 12 hours over 48 hours) at 40 to 41 days of gestation (dG). Placentomes were collected at 50, 100, 125, and 140 dG. At 100 dG, DEX in females reduced BNC numbers, placental antiapoptotic (proliferating cell nuclear antigen), and increased proapoptotic factors (Bax, p53), associated with a temporarily decrease in fetal growth. At 125 dG, BNC numbers and apoptotic markers were restored to normal. In males, ovine placental lactogen-protein levels after DEX were increased at 50 dG, but at 100 and 140 dG significantly decreased compared to controls. In contrast to females, these changes were independent of altered BNC numbers or apoptotic markers. Early DEX was associated with sex-specific, transient alterations in BNC numbers, which may contribute to changes in placental and fetal development. Furthermore, in females, altered placental apoptosis markers may be involved.
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