Altered zinc metabolism contributes to the developmental toxicity of 2- ethylhexanoic acid, 2-ethylhexanol and valproic acid

Linh M. Bui, Marie W. Taubeneck, Joel F. Commisso, Janet Y. Uriu-Hare, Willem D. Faber, Carl L Keen

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32 Scopus citations


It has been hypothesized that the developmental toxicity of certain compounds is, in part, due to maternal toxicity resulting in alterations in zinc (Zn) metabolism that affects the developing conceptus. In the present work the effects of developmentally toxic doses of 2-ethylhexanoic acid (EHXA), 2-ethylhexanol (EHXO), and valproic acid (VPA) on Zn metabolism were investigated in the pregnant rat. In experiment 1, dams were intubated with EHXA (3.13, 6.25, 9.38 or 12.5 mmol/kg), EHXO (6.25, 9.38 or 12.5 mmol/kg), VPA (1.56, 3.13, 6.25 or 9.38 mmol/kg), or corn oil (control; 1.0 ml/kg) at 14:00 h on gestation day (GD) 11.5, intubated with 32 μCi 65Zn at 22:00 h, and then killed at 08:00 h on GD 12.5. At the higher dose levels of EHXA and EHXO, and at all dosages of VPA, the percentage of 65Zn retained in maternal liver was higher, while that in the embryos was lower, than in controls. Chemical-associated changes in 65Zn distribution were associated with increased maternal liver metallothionein (MT) concentrations. In experiment 2, dams were fed diets containing 1, 25 or 97 μg Zn/g from GD 0- 16 and intubated with 3.5 mmol EHXA or 1.0 ml corn oil/kg/d from GD 8-15. Dams were killed on GD 16 or 19. High incidences of encephalocele and tail defects were noted in the GD 16 fetuses of EHXA-treated dams fed either the low or adequate Zn diet, the highest incidences being in the low Zn group. On GD 19 the incidence of tail defects tended to be higher in the EHXA groups than in off-treated controls, the highest incidence occurring in the low Zn EHXA group. Encephalocele was only observed in the low Zn EHXA-treated group. Fetal weight and crown-rump lengths were decreased by EHXA treatment and low dietary Zn. The incidence of rib anomalies was higher in the EHXA-exposed groups than in their respective oil controls. In experiment 3, GD 10.5 embryos collected from control dams were cultured for 48 h in serum from control or EHXA-treated male rats fed 4.5 or 25.0 μg Zn/g diets. Embryos cultured in either EHXA or low Zn sera exhibited delayed development; the addition of Zn to these sera eliminated their developmental toxicity. These results support the hypothesis that certain chemicals which induce maternal toxicity act, in part, to influence embryonic Zn metabolism and trigger abnormal development. Importantly, the teratogenic effects of these chemicals can be modulated by dietary Zn intake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-21
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 20 1998


  • 2-Ethylhexanoic acid
  • 2-Ethylhexanol
  • Acute phase response
  • Developmental toxicity
  • Metallothionein
  • Pregnancy
  • Valproic acid
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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