Teratogenicity of valproic acid and its constitutional isomer, amide derivative valnoctamide in mice

Birth Defects Res. 2019 Aug 15;111(14):1013-1023. doi: 10.1002/bdr2.1406. Epub 2018 Oct 16.


Objectives: The anticonvulsant valproic acid (VPA) has a known teratogenic effect capable of inducing major congenital malformations and developmental disorders. A comparative teratogenicity study of VPA and its analog valnoctamide (VCD), which is a new generation candidate antiepileptic drug, was carried out using Swiss Vancouver (SWV) mice.

Methods: Pregnant SWV dams were treated with either a single intraperitoneal injection of VPA (1.8 and 2.7 mmol/kg), VCD (1.8 and 2.7 mmol/kg), or vehicle on E8:12 (gestational day:hour). The numbers of implantation and resorption, viable and dead fetuses, and the presence of gross fetal visceral and skeletal abnormalities were determined (E18). Real-time Polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) arrays were used to analyze the expression of 84 genes related to the processes of neurogenesis and neural stem cell differentiation.

Results: Significant decreases in pregnancy weight gain and the number of live fetuses were observed when VPA was administered at the high dose, whereas the percentage of exencephalic fetuses was significantly increased in VPA treated compared with an equivalent VCD dosage group. There was a dose-related increase in visceral defects in the VPA-exposed fetuses. Missing skull bones and fused vertebrae in fetuses occurred at the high dose of VPA. Three genes (Mtap2, Bmp8b, and Stat3) were significantly upregulated and one (Heyl) was downregulated in samples from VPA-treated dams.

Conclusions: The study demonstrates that the teratogenicity of VPA was significantly greater than that of an equimolar dose of VCD. Four genes (Mtap2, Bmp8b, Stat3, and Heyl) represent candidate target genes for the underlying teratogenic mechanism responsible for VPA-induced malformations.

Keywords: embryotoxicity; mouse; teratogenicity; valnoctamide; valproic acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology
  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / physiopathology
  • Amides / adverse effects*
  • Amides / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fetal Death
  • Fetus / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Neural Tube Defects / chemically induced
  • Pregnancy
  • Teratogenesis / drug effects*
  • Teratogens / metabolism
  • Teratoma / etiology
  • Valproic Acid / adverse effects*
  • Valproic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Valproic Acid / pharmacology


  • Amides
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Teratogens
  • valnoctamide
  • Valproic Acid