Effects of maternal vitamin A status on fetal heart and lung: changes in expression of key developmental genes

Christos Antipatis, Cheryl Ashworth, George Grant, Richard G Lea, Susan M Hay, William D Rees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vitamin A is required during pregnancy for fetal lung development. These experiments monitored fetal lung morphology in normal and vitamin A-deficient rats. The expression of elastin and the growth arrest-specific gene 6 (gas6) in fetal and neonatal hearts and lungs was assessed by Northern blotting. In normal-fed rats, elastin and gas6 were expressed in the fetal lung and heart from day 19 of gestation up to day 2 postnatally. Maternal vitamin A deficiency altered fetal lung development. On day 20, the bronchial passageways were less developed and showed reduced staining for elastic fibers, and in the neonates, the relative air space and the size of the sacculi were reduced. In the fetal lung, the mRNAs for elastin and gas6 were reduced to 56 and 68% of the control values, respectively. In the fetal heart, the mRNA for elastin was reduced to 64% of the control value, whereas gas6 was increased twofold. In the neonate, there was no change in elastin expression in the lung or heart, but gas6 expression in the heart was increased twofold. These results suggest that, in the pregnant rat, vitamin A deficiency may retard fetal lung development or influence the differentiation of critical cell lines. The changes in elastin and gas6 expression may be used to identify the cell types affected.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1184-91
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1998


  • Animals
  • Elastin/genetics
  • Female
  • Fetal Heart/metabolism
  • Fetal Heart/physiology
  • Fetus/metabolism
  • Fetus/physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental/physiology
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Lung/embryology
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal/metabolism
  • Proteins/genetics
  • RNA, Messenger/metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Vitamin A/blood
  • Vitamin A Deficiency/blood

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