Transplacental carcinogenicity of 3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine in B6C3F1 mice and F344 rats

Environ Mol Mutagen. 2007 Apr-May;48(3-4):283-98. doi: 10.1002/em.20297.


The prophylactic use of zidovudine (3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine, AZT) during pregnancy greatly reduces transmission of HIV-1 from infected mothers to their infants; however, the affinity of host cell DNA polymerases for AZT also allows for its incorporation into host cell DNA, predisposing to cancer development. To expand upon previous transplacental carcinogenesis assays performed in CD-1 mice, the transplacental carcinogenicity of AZT was evaluated in a second mouse strain and a second rodent species. Date-mated female mice and rats were gavaged daily with 0, 80, 240, or 480 mg AZT/kg bw during the last 7 days of gestation. At 2 years postpartum, male and female B6C3F1 mouse and F344 rat offspring (n = 44-46 of each sex and species/treatment group) were necropsied for gross and microscopic tissue examinations. Under the conditions of these two-year studies, there was clear evidence of carcinogenic activity based upon significant dose-related trends and increases in the incidences of hemangiosarcoma in male mice and mononuclear cell leukemia in female rats. There was some evidence of carcinogenic activity in the livers of male mice based upon a positive trend and an increased incidence of hepatic carcinoma in the high-dose AZT group. The incidence of gliomas in female rats exceeded the historical background rates for gliomas in F344 rats. P53 overexpression was detected in some AZT-treated mouse neoplasms. These and other cancer-related findings confirm and extend those of previous transplacental carcinogenicity studies of AZT in mice, support the need for long-term follow-up of nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI)-exposed children, and indicate the necessity for effective protective strategies against NRTI-induced side effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-HIV Agents / toxicity*
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / toxicity*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • Zidovudine / toxicity*


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Carcinogens
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Zidovudine