Purpose: To investigate the pathogenesis of anorectal malformations (ARM), the authors studied cell proliferation and programmed cell death (apoptosis) patterns in murine embryos that develop ARM as a result of administering an overdose of etretinate, a long-acting vitamin A analogue (retinoid).
Methods: Pregnant mice were fed 60 mg/kg of etretinate on the ninth gestational day (E9). Embryos were obtained between E9.5 and E13, and prepared for histological study. Cell proliferation was examined using proliferative cell-specific nuclear antigen (PCNA) expression. Apoptosis was identified by detecting in situ DNA fragmentation using the TdT-mediated dUTP-digoxigenin nick end-labeling (TUNEL) method.
Results: Over 95% of etretinate-treated embryos had ARM including rectoprostatic urethral or rectocloacal fistula. In the histological study, ARM embryos showed defective cell proliferation in the cloacal membrane and excessive apoptosis in the dorsocaudal region on E11, which resulted in a lack of apoptosis in the anal orifice and a short tail on E12, respectively. Cells forming the urorectal septum showed the same pattern of cell proliferation and apoptosis both in ARM embryos and the controls. These results suggest that impairments of embryonal cellular dynamics in the cloacal membrane and dorsocaudal region induce some types of ARM.