Immune responses occurring between the embryo and mother have been shown to influence the embryo's tolerance to teratogens, including chemical teratogens and diabetes-induced teratogenic insult. In this study, we tried to evaluate whether maternal immunostimulation alters the embryo's response to heat shock, one of few teratogens which directly affect the embryo. In order to induce structural anomalies, both intact ICR female mice and mice which had been immunostimulated with xenogeneic rat splenocytes before mating, were exposed to two consecutive exposures to heat (43.6 ± 0.2°C) for 10 min on day 9 of pregnancy. The number of malformed fetuses, resorptions, and fetal weight were assessed on day 19 of pregnancy. Heat shock-induced apoptosis, and the level of heat shock protein (HSP) 60 expression, were examined in embryonic cells at different time points within 24 h after heating. All these indices differed dramatically in immunized and non-immunized heat shocked females. Heat shocked non-immunized females demonstrated an increased level of resorptions (approximately, 21% versus 8.6% in controls) and the proportion of fetuses with such anomalies as encephalocele and open eyes reached 28% and 21%, respectively. Maternal immunostimulation was associated with a significant decrease in the proportion of fetuses with encephalocele (12.8%), open eyes (8.9%), and resorptions (8%). The maximum level of heat shock-induced apoptosis in cell populations from the embryos of non-immunized females, was approximately, 30% versus 7% in cells of embryos of immunized mice. Heat shock was also followed by a significant increase in HSP60 expression, but only in the cells of embryos of non-immunized females. Together, these findings suggest that the tolerance of mouse embryos to a heat shock-induced teratogenic insult may, to some extent, depend on the character of the maternal immune responses.
- Heat shock proteins