Objectives: There is growing evidence of ongoing, in utero neurological damage in fetuses with myelomeningocele (MMC). Phospholipase A2 (PLA2) has known neurotoxic properties and is predominantly present in its secretory isoform (sPLA2) in meconium, the passage of which is increased in MMC fetuses. The objective of this study was to determine if amniotic fluid (AF) levels of PLA2 are elevated in a rat model of MMC.
Methods: Timed pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were gavage fed 60 mg/kg/bodyweight retinoic acid (RA) in olive oil at embryonic day 10 (E10). Amniocentesis was performed at multiple gestational time points on MMC fetuses, RA-exposed fetuses without MMC and control fetuses. AF PLA2 levels were analyzed by a fluorescent enzyme activity assay. PLA2 isoforms were determined by measuring activity in the presence of specific inhibitors.
Results: There was no difference in AF PLA2 activity between groups on E15. PLA2 activity was significantly increased in MMC fetuses on E17, E19 and E21 (p < 0.001). Secretory PLA2 primarily accounted for the overall greater activity.
Conclusions: PLA2 levels are elevated in the AF of fetal rats with MMC and may contribute to ongoing neural injury. This pathway may be a useful drug target to limit ongoing damage and better preserve neurologic function.
Keywords: Amniotic fluid; meconium; myelomeningocele; phospholipase A2.