Suppression of placental metallothionein 1 and zinc transporter 1 mRNA expressions contributes to fetal heart malformations caused by maternal zinc deficiency

Cardiovasc Toxicol. 2014 Dec;14(4):329-38. doi: 10.1007/s12012-014-9256-0.


Zinc has been implicated to have a protective role against heart malformations during fetal development. Metallothionein 1 (MT-1) and zinc transporter 1 (ZnT-1) are two major metabolic factors that are associated with zinc metabolism. The present work aimed to investigate the association of placental MT-1 and ZnT-1 expressions with fetal heart malformations resulting from maternal zinc deficiency. Sprague-Dawley female rats were randomly divided into five groups of extremely low-zinc, low-zinc, moderately low-zinc, marginally low-zinc and normal zinc (n = 9-12), and were fed diets with controlled zinc content at 1.0 ± 0.3, 8.4 ± 1.8, 15.4 ± 2.8, 22.4 ± 4.1 and 29.4 ± 5.3 [mean ± standard deviation (SD)] mg of zinc/kg, respectively, from day 25 of preconception until day 19 of gestation. The female rats were bred, their fetuses were harvested at day 19 of gestation after killing the dams, and fetal hearts were morphologically examined. Zinc concentration and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity in maternal venous blood sera were tested, and MT-1 and ZnT-1 mRNA expressions in the placenta were assayed. Zinc concentrations and ALP activities in the blood were low in all zinc-deficient diet groups in a dose-dependent fashion. The incidences of heart malformations were increased, and the levels of placental MT-1 and ZnT-1 mRNA expressions were decreased in the extremely low-zinc, low-zinc and moderately low-zinc groups compared with the normal zinc group. Specifically, mRNA levels of placental MT-1 or ZnT-1 were significantly decreased and were lower than the specific threshold values in the fetuses with heart malformations but not in the fetuses without heart malformations in all the groups. These data indicate that maternal zinc deficiency resulted in an elevated incidence of fetal heart malformations, which was associated with significant decreases in placental MT-1 and ZnT-1 mRNA expressions to the levels below the threshold values that may be a crucial factor to determine the presence of fetal heart malformations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood
  • Animals
  • Cation Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Heart / abnormalities*
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Metallothionein / genetics*
  • Metallothionein / metabolism
  • Placenta / chemistry
  • Pregnancy
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Zinc / blood
  • Zinc / deficiency*


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Mt2A protein, rat
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Slc30a1 protein, rat
  • Metallothionein
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Zinc