Changes in brain ultrastructure of fetal rats with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) were explored and the effects of antenatal taurine supplementation on their brain ultrastructure were determined. Fifteen pregnant rats were randomly divided into three groups: control group, IUGR model group and IUGR group given antenatal taurine supplements. Taurine was added to the diet of the taurine group at a dose of 300 mg/kg/d from 12 days after conception until natural delivery. Transmission electron microscopy was used to observe ultrastructural changes in the brains of the newborn rats. At the same time, brain cellular apoptosis was detected using TUNEL, and the changes in protein expression of neuron specific enolase and glial fibrillary acidic protein were analyzed using immunohistochemistry. The results showed that: 1) The average body weight and cerebral weight were significantly lower in the IUGR group than in the control group (p<0.01) and both of them were less so after taurine was supplemented (p<0.01). 2) Transmission electron microscopy revealed that brain cortex structures were sparse IUGR rats, showing many scattered apoptotic cells, decreased numbers of synapses, lower glial cell proliferation, and fewer neurons, more sparsely arranged, while these factors were significantly improved with taurine supplementation. 3) The results of TUNEL showed that the counts of apoptotic brain cells in IUGR groups were significantly increased from those in control groups and that taurine could significantly decrease brain cell apoptosis (p<0.001). 4) The results of immunohistochemistry showed that antenatal taurine-supplementation could significantly increase the counts of neuron specific enolase and glial fibrillary acidic protein immunoreactive cells in fetal rats with IUGR (p<0.001). It can be concluded that it IUGR has a significant detrimental influence on the development of fetal rat brains, and antenatal supplement of taurine can significantly improve the IUGR fetal brain development.
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