Prenatal dexamethasone treatment improves survival of newborn rats during prolonged high O2 exposure

Pediatr Res. 1992 Aug;32(2):215-21. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199208000-00018.


Prenatal dexamethasone (DEX) treatment is known to accelerate the maturation of both the surfactant system and the fetal lung antioxidant enzyme (AOE) system (Frank L, Lewis P, Sosenko IRS: Pediatrics 75:569-574, 1985). Because of this stimulatory effect of prenatal DEX on the normal late gestational development of the AOE system, we questioned whether this treatment might have a salutary effect on the ability of the newborn rat to tolerate early and prolonged exposure to hyperoxia, inasmuch as the AOE are the primary lung defensive system against high O2 challenge. In nine experiments with term newborn rats in greater than 95% O2, the composite percentage of survival was significantly greater in the prenatal DEX pups at all time periods in hyperoxia from 7 d [control pups, 67 of 94 (71%); prenatal DEX, 96 of 99 (97%)] to 14 d [controls, 10 of 32 (31%); prenatal DEX, 18 of 33 (55%)] (p less than 0.01). In addition to survival per se, the prenatal DEX pups showed significantly decreased lung wet weight/dry weight ratios, pathologic evidence of pulmonary edema, and lung conjugated dienes versus the O2 control newborn group. Of the many comparative parameters examined, the major difference found between the two groups was in the pulmonary AOE responses to hyperoxia. By 2 d in hyperoxia, the prenatal DEX rat pups showed significantly elevated superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase activities compared to air control pups, and at 4 and 7 d in O2 the AOE levels were consistently greater in the DEX group than the AOE responses in the control O2 pups.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Fetal Organ Maturity / drug effects
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / embryology
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Oxygen
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Antioxidants
  • Dexamethasone
  • Oxygen