Effect of maternal exposure to homocystine on sodium valproate-induced neural tube defects in the mouse embryos

R. Padmanabhan, M. Shafiullah, S. Benedict, N. Nagelkerke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Neural tube defects (NTD) are mainly of multifactorial origin. Maternal treatment with valproic acid (VPA) during pregnancy induces NTD in susceptible fetuses. Elevated levels of homocysteine are observed in pregnancies with NTD. The mechanism by which homocysteine might cause NTD is unknown. Aim of the Study: The aim of this study was to determine if homocystine would augment VPA-induced exencephaly in an experimental model. Methods: Groups of mice were injected (IP) on gestational day 8 (GD) with a single dose of 75 mg/kg of l-Homocystine (HC) or a proportionate volume of saline, followed by a single dose of 600 mg/kg of VPA or an equal volume of saline. In a second experiment, mice were treated with a daily dose of 75 mg/kg of HC or an equal volume of saline (IP) from GD 5 and continued through GD 10. These animals had a single exposure to 600 mg/kg of VPA or saline (IP) on GD 8. All animals were killed by cervical dislocation on GD 18. Plasma homocysteine, folate and vitamin B12 were determined on GD 8 and GD 10 from single and multiple dose groups of mice, respectively, from additional experiments. Results: The VPA and HC+VPA induced significantly higher rates of embryonic resorption and intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) than HC or saline alone. HC + VPA groups had significantly more numerous fetuses with severe IUGR than HC alone or VPA alone groups. Both single and multiple doses of HC augmented VPA-induced reduction in fetal body weight. Successive doses of HC did not augment the rate of IUGR more significantly than a single dose of HC. Incidence of exencephaly was significantly enhanced in the HC + VPA groups compared to that in the HC or VPA alone groups. HC alone was not teratogenic. Plasma homocysteine levels increased several fold both in HC and HC + VPA groups and the increase was not particularly more marked in multiple dose groups than in the single dose groups. VPA did not elevate homocysteine concentration. Both FA and vitamin B12 concentrations were reduced by VPA, HC and HC + VPA, but HC and VPA when combined did not produce an additive effect on vitamin levels. Conclusion: These data indicate that HC and VPA interact in neurulation stage embryos, affect fundamental processes of closure of the neural tube and lead to enhanced incidence of NTD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-319
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Folic acid
  • Homocysteine
  • Neural tube defects
  • Valproic acid
  • Vitamin B12

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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