Background: Prenatal exposure to ethanol induces holoprosencephalic malformations in both humans and laboratory animals. However, its teratogenic window for inducing holoprosencephaly is narrow, and the teratogenic mechanism is not well understood. In the present study, we examined the morphological changes in the craniofacial structures of mouse embryos/fetuses at intervals following ethanol treatment and evaluated gene expression patterns in the embryos.
Methods: Pregnant C57BL/6J mice were given two doses of ethanol (30 mg/kg in total) on the morning (7:00 and 11:00 AM) of day 7. The fetuses were observed at E10.5 and E15.5 grossly and/or histologically. The expression of Shh and Nkx2.1 gene transcripts was examined at E8.5 by in situ hybridization.
Results: Gross and histological abnormalities of the brain and face were found in ethanol-exposed fetuses, and their midline structures were most frequently affected. The midline commissural fibers were often lacking in ethanol-exposed fetuses, even in those cases without external gross malformations. In situ hybridization revealed down-regulation of Shh and Nkx2.1 genes in ethanol-exposed embryos.
Conclusions: The results indicate that ethanol may perturb the expression of some developmental genes at a critical stage of embryonic development and induce holoprosencephaly and other midline craniofacial malformations, including histological brain abnormalities.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.