Rat embryos cultured under copper-deficient conditions develop abnormally and are characterized by an impaired oxidant defense system

Susan N. Hawk, Janet Y. Uriu-Hare, George P. Daston, Margaret A. Jankowski, Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Robert B. Rucker, Carl L Keen

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32 Scopus citations


Rat embryos (gestation days 9.0 and 10.0) obtained from dams that were fed a Cu-adequate (8 μg Cu/g) or Cu-deficient (< 0.5 μg Cu/g) diet were cultured for 48 hr in Cu-adequate (16.2 μM) or Cu-deficient (1.0 μM) rat serum. Control embryos cultured in control serum were morphologically normal. Embryos from Cu-deficient dams developed abnormally when cultured in Cu-deficient serum; the abnormalities included distended hindbrains, blisters, blood pooling, and cardiac defects. Control embryos cultured in Cu-deficient serum and Cu-deficient embryos cultured in control serum also showed abnormal development, but to a lesser degree than that of the Cu-deficient embryos cultured in Cu-deficient serum. To test the idea that the above abnormalities were due in part to free radical-induced damage occurring secondary to an impaired oxidant defense system, a chemiluminescence assay was used to detect superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in the cultured embryos. SOD activity was lowest in embryos cultured in Cu-deficient serum. When the Cu-deficient serum was supplemented with antioxidants (CuZnSOD or glutathione peroxidase), its teratogenicity was reduced. These data support the idea that an impaired oxidant defense system contributes to the dysmorphology associated with Cu deficiency. However, the Cu-deficient embryos also had low cytochrome c oxidase activity compared to control embryos - thus, multiple factors are likely contributing to Cu deficiency-induced abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-320
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1998


ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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