Novel insights from fetal and placental phenotyping in 3 mouse models of Down syndrome

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2021 Sep;225(3):296.e1-296.e13. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2021.03.019. Epub 2021 Mar 22.


Background: In human fetuses with Down syndrome, placental pathology, structural anomalies and growth restriction are present. There is currently a significant lack of information regarding the early life span in mouse models of Down syndrome.

Objective: The objective of this study was to examine embryonic day 18.5 and placental phenotype in the 3 most common mouse models of Down syndrome (Ts65Dn, Dp(16)1/Yey, Ts1Cje). Based on prenatal and placental phenotyping in 3 mouse models of Down syndrome, we hypothesized that one or more of them would have a similar phenotype to human fetuses with trisomy 21, which would make it the most suitable for in utero treatment studies.

Study design: Here, C57BL6J/6 female mice were mated to Dp(16)1/Yey and Ts1Cje male mice and Ts65Dn female mice to C57BL/B6Eic3Sn.BLiAF1/J male mice. At embryonic day 18.5, dams were euthanized. Embryos and placentas were examined blindly for weight and size. Embryos were characterized as euploid or trisomic, male or female by polymerase chain reaction. A subset of embryos (34 euploid and 34 trisomic) were examined for malformations.

Results: The Ts65Dn mouse model showed the largest differences in fetal growth, brain development, and placental development when comparing euploid and trisomic embryos. For the Dp(16)1/Yey mouse model, genotype did not impact fetal growth, but there were differences in brain and placental development. For the Ts1Cje mouse model, no significant association was found between genotype and fetal growth, brain development, or placental development. Euploid mouse embryos had no congenital anomalies; however, 1 mouse embryo died. Hepatic necrosis was seen in 6 of 12 Dp(16)1/Yey (50%) and 1 of 12 Ts1Cje (8%) mouse embryos; hepatic congestion or inflammation was observed in 3 of 10 Ts65Dn mouse embryos (30%). Renal pelvis dilation was seen in 5 of 12 Dp(16)1/Yey (42%), 5 of 10 Ts65Dn (50%), and 3 of 12 Ts1Cje (25%) mouse embryos. In addition, 1 Ts65Dn mouse embryo and 1 Dp(16)1/Yey mouse embryo had an aortic outflow abnormality. Furthermore, 2 Ts1Cje mouse embryos had ventricular septal defects. Ts65Dn mouse placentas had increased spongiotrophoblast necrosis.

Conclusion: Fetal and placental growth showed varying trends across strains. Congenital anomalies were primarily seen in trisomic embryos. The presence of liver abnormalities in all 3 mouse models of Down syndrome (10 of 34 cases) is a novel finding. Renal pelvis dilation was also common (13 of 34 cases). Future research will examine human autopsy material to determine if these findings are relevant to infants with Down syndrome. Differences in placental histology were also observed among strains.

Keywords: Down syndrome; fetal phenotyping; liver abnormalities; mouse models; placenta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Dilatation, Pathologic
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Down Syndrome / genetics*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development*
  • Genotype
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular / pathology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Kidney Pelvis / pathology
  • Liver / pathology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Necrosis
  • Organ Size
  • Phenotype
  • Placenta / pathology*
  • Placentation*
  • Pregnancy