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Teratology. 1993 Jul;48(1):45-51.

The effect of tolbutamide on rat embryonic development in vitro.

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Division of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Jefferson, Arkansas 72079-9502.


Tolbutamide (TOLB) is a sulfonylurea used to treat non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and is a suspected teratogen. However, it is not possible to discriminate between potential teratogenic effects of TOLB and malformations produced by either drug-induced hypoglycemia or the diabetic state itself. We examined the direct effect of TOLB on rat embryos cultured in a rodent whole embryo culture system. CD strain rat embryos were cultured for 48 h beginning on day 9 of gestation (plug day = day 0). Tolbutamide was added at various concentrations (90-3,600 microM). At the end of culture, viable embryos were examined for morphological score, number of somite pairs, crown-rump and head lengths, and DNA and protein content. Tolbutamide produced dose-related decreases in all endpoints at concentrations (2,250-3,600 microM) which are two to four times the human therapeutic concentration. Sera from TOLB-treated rats were adjusted to contain equal concentrations of glucose and insulin and then used for embryo culture. Serum from TOLB-treated rats had no observable effect on embryonic development. The mechanism for the embryotoxic effect of TOLB is unknown; however, the drug was previously demonstrated to alter activity of purified yeast glutathione reductase (GR). Because GR may be important for normal embryonic development, the effect of TOLB on this enzyme activity in cultured rat embryos was evaluated. Tolbutamide (2,700 microM) reduced embryonic GR activity by 35-57%. These results indicate that TOLB has a direct embryotoxic effect at levels 2 to 4 times the usual therapeutic serum concentrations on developing rodent embryos which may be mediated by GR inhibition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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