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Mattias Gäreskog and Parri Wentzel

Malformations and growth disturbances are two- to threefold more common in infants of diabetic mothers than in offspring of non-diabetic pregnancy. Several suggestions have emerged to explain the reasons for diabetic embryopathy, including enhanced mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species leading to altered activation of protein kinase C. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of α-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid (CHC) and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) addition on morphology and activity of protein kinase C-δ and protein kinase C-ζ in rat embryos exposed to a high glucose concentration in vitro. Day 9 embryos from normal rats were cultured in 10 or 30 mM glucose concentrations with or without supplementation of CHC, NAC, or protein kinase C inhibitors specific for protein kinase C-δ and protein kinase C-ζ. Embryos were evaluated for malformations, crown rump length, and somite number. Protein kinase C-δ and protein kinase C-ζ activities were estimated by western blot by separating membranous and cytosolic fractions of the embryo. We found increased malformations and growth retardation in embryos cultured in high versus low glucose concentrations. These abnormalities were diminished when CHC and NAC or specific protein kinase C-inhibitors were added to the culture medium. The activities of embryonic protein kinase C-δ and protein kinase C-ζ were increased in the high glucose environment after 24-h culture, but were normalized by the addition of CHC and NAC as well as respective inhibitor to the culture medium. These findings suggest that mitochondrial overproduction of reactive oxygen species is involved in diabetic embryopathy. Furthermore, such overproduction may affect embryonic development, at least partly, by enhancing the activities of protein kinase C-δ and protein kinase C-ζ.