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J Hepatol. 2005 Aug;43(2):324-32.

Oxidative stress and apoptosis in fetal rat liver induced by maternal cholestasis. Protective effect of ursodeoxycholic acid.

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  • 1Laboratory of Experimental Hepatology and Drug Targeting, Research Unit, University Hospital, University of Salamanca, 37007 Salamanca, Spain.



The sensitivity of fetal rat liver to maternal obstructive cholestasis during pregnancy (OCP), and the effect of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) were investigated.


UDCA was administered (i.g. 0.6 mg/kg b.wt./day) from day 14 to day 21 of pregnancy after maternal common bile duct ligation.


Impairment in the activity of antioxidant enzymes, levels of total glutathione and GSH/GSSG ratio and the degrees of lipid peroxidation and protein carbonylation were similar in livers of OCP mothers and fetuses at term, despite hypercholanemia was milder in fetuses. Treatment of OCP rats with UDCA reduced maternal and fetal liver oxidative stress. Although maternal hypercholanemia was not corrected, fetal serum concentrations of major bile acids (except UDCA and beta-muricholic acid) were reduced. Fetal liver expression of key enzyme in bile acid synthesis, Cyp7a1, Cyp27 and Cyp8b1 was not affected by OCP or UDCA treatment. In OCP fetal livers, the relative expression of Bax-alpha and Bcl-2 and the activity of caspase-3, but not caspase-8, were increased. These changes were markedly reduced in fetuses of OCP animals treated with UDCA.


OCP induced moderate fetal hypercholanemia but marked liver oxidative stress and apoptosis that were partly prevented by treatment of pregnant rats with UDCA.

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