Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) bioactivity was assessed in culture media conditioned with uterine cells collected from control or diabetic rats on days 5 and 8 of pregnancy. On both days, diabetic uterine cells released significantly more biologically active TNF than did control cells, and this activity was significantly decreased by the addition of anti-TNF-α antibodies but not by the addition of normal IgG when WEHI 164 cells were used as a target. When uterine tissues from day 5 or day 8 pregnant diabetic rats were tested by Northern blot analysis, TNF-α mRNAs were twofold more abundant than in control samples, but the difference was not statistically significant (P = 0.086 and 0.100, respectively). Immunohistochemical analysis of diabetic day 5 uterine sections revealed that most of the TNF-α synthesis occurs in the epithelium lining the uterine lumen. Finally, the growth of day-5 embryos in culture medium conditioned with day-5 diabetic uterine cells was significantly reduced when compared with that of embryos in medium conditioned with control cells. Embryonic development was markedly improved when anti-TNF-α antibodies were added to the diabetic-cell conditioned medium. Our data support the hypothesis that TNF-α may be implicated in the developmental deficiencies observed in preimplantation embryos from pregnant diabetic rats.

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