Pathogenesis of ethanol-induced hydronephrosis and hydroureter as demonstrated following in vivo exposure of mouse embryos

Teratology. 1991 Sep;44(3):299-312. doi: 10.1002/tera.1420440307.


Urinary tract abnormalities have been noted to occur in 10-27% of individuals diagnosed as having Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Among a wide range of functional and structural abnormalities, renal agenesis/hypoplasia, hydronephrosis, and ureteropelvic obstruction feature most prominently. This study was designed to examine the pathogenesis of ethanol-induced urinary tract abnormalities in a mouse model. C57Bl/6J mice were acutely exposed to two doses of ethanol (2.9 g/kg IP) administered 4 hours apart beginning on gestational day (GD) 9, hour 4. This resulted in an incidence of 40.7% urinary tract anomalies among GD18 fetuses. With the exception of duplicate ureter, urinary tract abnormalities consisted exclusively of hydroureter/hydronephrosis. Examination of GD13-17 fetuses revealed that the first grossly detectable differences in the urinary tracts of control vs. affected specimens occurred on GD16 and initially only involved ureteral changes. Hydronephrosis was first detected on GD17. A contributing factor to the development of hydronephrosis appears to be the abnormal location of the ureterovesicle junction which commonly involves duplicate ureteral lumens with resultant functional obstruction to urine flow at the distal end of the ureter. Study of the early pathogenetic changes which appear to result in the urinary tract malformations observed involved utilization of scanning electron microscopy, vital dye (Nile blue sulphate) staining of whole embryos, and analysis of histological sections. These studies revealed that 12 hours following initial maternal ethanol exposure, embryos have excessive amounts of cell death localized in the region of the developing mesonephric duct just proximal to the cloaca. Also affected were premigratory neural crest cells located just proximal to the posterior neuropore. We conclude that excessive amounts of ethanol-induced cell death in these selectively vulnerable populations could account for the subsequently observed urinary tract malformations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology*
  • Animals
  • Embryo, Mammalian / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / complications*
  • Gestational Age
  • Hydronephrosis / etiology*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Ureteral Diseases / etiology*
  • Urogenital Abnormalities