Embryotoxicity of a single dose of medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) and maternal serum MPA concentrations in cynomolgus monkey (Macaca fascicularis)

S. Prahalada, E. Carroad, M. Cukierski, Andrew G Hendrickx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


A single dose of MPA (Depo‐Provera; Upjohn Co., Kalamazoo, Michigan) was administered intramuscularly to 12 time‐mated pregnant cynomolgus monkeys on day 27 (±2) of gestation at 25 mg/kg or at 100 mg/kg. Maternal blood samples were collected immediately prior to MPA injection and then at regular intervals until cesarean section at term (day 152 ± 3). Infants in both dose groups had external genital abnormalities. Female infants in the low–dose groups had partial or complete labial fusion, prominent median raphe, and clitoral hypertrophy; at high doses (100 mg/kg), the female infants had complete labial fusion and a distinct penile urethra. MPA had an opposite effect on external genitalia of male infants. The penis was short and the scrotal swelling was absent or less conspicuous, and two males had hypospadias. The adrenal glands were significantly smaller (P < 0.05) in infants of both sexes treated with 100 mg/kg. One of the infants treated with 25 mg/kg of MPA had a muscular ventricular septal defect. Serum concentrations of MPA were determined by radioimmunoassay in eight pregnant monkeys. In the 25 mg/kg group the patterns of MPA profiles in the serum were similar in all four animals. An initial peak occurred at 24–48 hr postinjection (2.7–9.6 ng/ml), followed by a slight decrease at 3 days postinjection (gestational day 30), and then a steady increase to maximum levels of 10–14 ng/ml occurring between gestational days 37 and 50. Serum levels gradually declined to concentrations below 5 ng/ml by midgestation in three of four monkeys. By comparison, both the patterns and magnitude of MPA concentration showed great interanimal variation in the 100mg/kg group. MPA was present in cord blood at measurable concentrations in infants at both dose groups; the levels ranged from 0.6 to 8.3 ng/ml, corresponding to 40–72% of the maternal concentrations. These results demonstrate that a single injection of MPA during early pregnancy causes selective embryotoxicity in both male and female fetuses. Presence of high levels of MPA in maternal sera during the critical period of genital development can cause specific genital defects; however, the exact mechanism by which MPA causes these paradoxical genital abnormalities is unknown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-432
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Embryology
  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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