Effects of prenatal AZT on mouse neurobehavioral development and passive avoidance learning

Neurotoxicol Teratol. Jan-Feb 1999;21(1):29-40. doi: 10.1016/s0892-0362(98)00035-x.


Recent evidence has shown that perinatal administration of zidovudine (AZT) to HIV-infected mothers reduces the risk of maternal-infant transmission of the virus. Treatment of pregnant seropositive women with AZT is becoming a common medical practice, despite the paucity of information about the potential neurotoxic/behavioral-teratogenic effects of AZT on the developing organism. The aim of the present study is to evaluate in mice the short-, medium-, and long-term effects of prenatal exposure to AZT on neurobehavioral development. Pregnant mice were given 0.2, 0.4, and 2.0 mg/ml AZT in drinking water from day 10 of gestation to delivery. Offspring's viability was severely affected in the 2.0 mg/ml AZT group. Thus, behavioral analysis was carried out in offspring of 0.2 and 0.4 mg/ml AZT-treated females only. Some limited but significant alterations were found, such as stunted body weight, delayed appearance of the pole-grasping reflex, and a slight impairment in the acquisition phase of a passive avoidance response. Moreover, sexual differences in some items of the social behavior repertoire appeared to be affected by AZT treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agonistic Behavior / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Anti-HIV Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-HIV Agents / toxicity*
  • Avoidance Learning / drug effects*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Female
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Nervous System / drug effects
  • Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Social Behavior
  • Zidovudine / pharmacokinetics
  • Zidovudine / toxicity*


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Zidovudine