Diabetic rat pregnancies are characterized by altered maternal and fetal Zn metabolism and a higher frequency of fetal malformations. In this study, the effect of varying maternal dietary Zn on pregnancy and fetal outcome and on maternal and fetal trace element status were investigated. Starting on day 0 of gestation, streptozocin-induced diabetic andondiabetic control rats were fed a low-Zn diet (4.5 (μg/g diet), an adequate-Zn diet (24.5 μg/g diet), or a high-Zn diet (500 μg/g diet) throughout gestation. Fetuses were taken by cesarean section on gestation day 20. Fetuses from diabetic dams were smaller, weighed less, and had less calcified skeletons and more malformations than fetuses from control dams. In the controls, maternal dietary Zn had a minor effect on fetal malformation frequency. In contrast, in the diabetic animals, the low-Zn diet had a strong teratogenic effect. In diabetic dams, the adequate- and high-Zn diets improved fetal length and weight more than it did in fetuses from nondiabetic dams. However, supplemental dietary Zn during diabetic pregnancy did not further improve malformation frequencies. Liver and kidney Zn, Cu, and metallothionein concentrations were higher in diabetic dams than in control dams. In contrast, liver Zn, Cu, and metallothionein concentrations in fetuses of diabetic dams were lower than in fetuses from control dams, regardless of maternal dietary Zn intake. These results show that diabetes during pregnancy can amplify the teratogenic effects of a mild maternal Zn deficiency. The results also suggest that the diabetic condition alters Zn and Cu transport across diabetic placentas and/or alters Zn and Cu retention of fetuses from diabetic versus control dams, despite differing levels of maternal dietary Zn intake.

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