Aims/hypothesis: Experimental studies have suggested that apoptosis is involved in diabetic embryopathy through oxidative stress. However, the precise mechanism of diabetic embryopathy is not yet clear. Thioredoxin (TRX) is a small, ubiquitous, multifunctional protein, which has recently been shown to protect cells from oxidative stress and apoptosis. Using transgenic mice that overproduce human TRX-1 (TRX-Tg mice), we examined whether oxidative stress is involved in fetal dysmorphogenesis in diabetic pregnancies. Methods: Non-diabetic and streptozotocin-induced diabetic (DM) female mice were mated with male TRX-Tg mice. Pregnant mice were killed either at day 10 or day 17 of gestation, and viable fetuses and their placentas were recovered, weighed and assessed for gross and histological morphology, biochemical markers and gene expression. Results: In both wild-type (WT) and transgenic (Tg) groups, fetal and placental weights in the diabetic group were significantly decreased compared with the non-diabetic group. The incidence of malformation was higher in the diabetic group, and was significantly decreased in the TRX-Tg group (DM-WT vs DM-Tg; 28.6% vs 10.4%). Oxidative stress markers such as thiobarbituric acid reactive substances and 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine were increased in DM-WT group fetuses but were decreased in fetuses from the DM-Tg group. Furthermore, immunohistochemically assayed apoptosis and cleaved caspase-3 production in embryonic neuroepithelial cells was significantly increased in the DM-WT group, and was significantly decreased in the DM-Tg group. Conclusions/interpretation: These results indicate that oxidative stress is involved in diabetic embryopathy, and that the antioxidative protein TRX at least partially prevents diabetic embryopathy via suppression of apoptosis.
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