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Teratology. 1994 Apr;49(4):260-6.

Effects of the biguanide class of oral hypoglycemic agents on mouse embryogenesis.

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Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 27599.


The incidence of birth defects among offspring of mothers with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) is 2-3-fold higher than among infants of non diabetics. Since mothers with NIDDM are frequently given oral hypoglycemic agents, including sulphonylureas and biguanides, to control their disease and since these agents have been associated with the occurrence of congenital malformations in humans and animals, the embryotoxic effects of the most commonly employed biguanides, metformin and phenformin, were evaluated in whole embryo culture. Neurulating mouse embryos were exposed to therapeutic concentrations (metformin 500-2,550 mg per day; phenformin 50-400 mg per day, respectively) of the compounds for 24-48 h. Concentrations of metformin in culture ranged from 0.15 to 1.8 mg/ml and phenformin from 2.5 x 10(-5) to 0.4 mg/ml. Cultures were terminated and scored for gross morphological alterations and total protein content. Metformin produced no alterations in embryonic growth and no major malformations. Approximately 10% of all embryos exposed to metformin regardless of dose, exhibited open cranial neuropores after 24 h of culture. However, this anomaly appeared to represent a delay in closure as opposed to an overt defect, since no embryos exposed to the highest concentration of the drug and cultured for 48 h showed open neural tubes. In contrast, phenformin produced dose dependent changes in incidence of malformations, protein content, and embryolethality. Malformations included neural tube closure defects, craniofacial hypoplasia, and reduction in size of the first and second visceral arches. Doses above 0.1 mg/ml produced embryolethality and all embryos were killed at the 0.4 mg/ml concentration.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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