Apoptotic cell death and cell proliferative activity in the rat fetal central nervous system from dams administered with ethylnitrosourea (ENU)

Histol Histopathol. 2001 Jan;16(1):79-85. doi: 10.14670/HH-16.79.


Ethylnitrosourea (ENU), a well known DNA alkylating agent, induces anomalies in the central nervous system (CNS), craniofacial tissues and male reproductive organs, and the enhancement of apoptosis is found in these tissues immediately after the administration of ENU (Katayama et al., 2000a). In this study, pregnant rats were treated with 60mg/kg of ENU at day 13 of gestation, and kinetics of apoptotic cells, mitotic cells and bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU)-positive cells in the fetal CNS were examined from 3 to 48 hours after the treatment (HAT). From 3 HAT, a significant increase in the number of apoptotic cells and a significant decrease in the number of mitotic cells were detected in the fetal CNS, and BrdU-positive cells significantly decreased in accordance with the increase in the number of apoptotic cells. The present results strongly suggest that both excess cell death by apoptosis and cell growth arrest indicated by decreased number of mitotic cells and BrdU-positive cells may have a close relation to the later occurrence of microencephaly following ENU-administration, and that ENU affects mainly S-phase cells and causes apoptosis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System / cytology*
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System / embryology*
  • DNA Fragmentation / drug effects
  • Ethylnitrosourea / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fetus / drug effects
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mitosis / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Teratogens / toxicity


  • Antimetabolites
  • Carcinogens
  • Teratogens
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Ethylnitrosourea