Offspring of diabetic humans and laboratory animals have been shown to have a higher incidence of congenital malformations with attendant growth retardation. These defects have been attributed to alterations in the intrauterine environment and specifically to changes in maternal serum factors, e.g., glucose and ketone bodies. Our investigation examines the potential teratogenicity of a low-molecular-weight (940) serum fraction with demonstrated somatomedin inhibitory activity isolated by column chromatography from streptozocin-induced diabetic rats. Mouse embryos were exposed to control or the inhibitor fraction at concentrations of 0.25–0.6% vol/vol (0.9–3.0 μg protein/ml culture medium) in whole embryo culture and evaluated for the presence of malformations and growth retardation. Embryos exposed to inhibitor during the period of neurulation (3–5 somites) exhibited neural tube and craniofacial defects, whereas those exposed during early limb bud stages (18–19 somites) exhibited abnormalities of the forebrain and face. In addition, both stages were growth retarded. Control fractions produced no abnormalities. These results demonstrate a potential role for somatomedin inhibitors in diabetic embryopathy and suggest that factors other than hyperglycemie and hyperketonemia may contribute to the higher incidence of malformations among infants of diabetic mothers.

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