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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1993 Aug;37(8):1610-3.

Effect of zidovudine on preimplantation murine embryos.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio 44106.


It previously has been demonstrated that zidovudine (AZT) is lethal to early murine embryos. The effect of the drug on pre- and postimplantation embryos was examined to delineate the timing of this toxicity and to investigate its possible mechanisms. Embryos exposed in the whole mouse during preblastocyst development were unable to proceed beyond the blastocyst stage. Similarly, when two-cell embryos harvested from unexposed females were exposed to low-concentration (1 microM) AZT in vitro over 24 h, development beyond the blastocyst stage was inhibited. In contrast, drug exposure during in vitro blastocyst and postblastocyst development resulted in little or no morphologic toxicity. Further investigation revealed that preblastocyst AZT exposure resulted in the development of blastocysts with significantly lower cell numbers than control embryos. While embryonic exposure to AZT at the blastocyst and postblastocyst stages also resulted in retarded cell division, the effects were milder than those recorded after preblastocyst exposure. These data demonstrate that the critical period of AZT toxicity toward murine embryos is between ovulation and implantation and indicate that AZT directly suppresses cell division in the preimplantation embryo.

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