It is well known that maternal diabetes causes various congenital malformations. Although there are many reports that folic acid (FA) administration in pregnancy reduces the risk of birth defects including neural tube defects (NTDs), a precise analysis on the preventive effect of FA against diabetic embryopathy has not been done yet. In this study, we analyzed the preventive effects of FA on congenital malformations including NTDs, cardiovascular, and skeletal malformations using a diabetic mouse model. Female mice were rendered hyperglycemic by streptozotocin and then mated. Pregnant diabetic mice were treated daily with FA (3 mg/kg body weight) or saline between gestational days (GD) 6 and 10. On GD 18, fetuses were examined for congenital malformations. FA did not affect plasma glucose levels. In the DM control group, the incidence of NTDs, cardiovascular, and skeletal malformations was 28.4%, 28.5%, and 29.7%, respectively. In the FA-treated group, the corresponding proportions reduced to 6.0%, 2.5% and 12.5%, respectively. A whole-mount TUNEL revealed an increased apoptosis in the hindbrain region of embryos from DM control group on day 9.5, and the apoptosis was decreased by FA treatment. Maternal plasma homocysteine levels on GD 9.5 were significantly lowered in DM control group compared with those in non-DM group, and FA treatment did not show a significant effect. These results indicate that FA is effective for the prevention of various diabetic embryopathy including NTDs, cardiovascular, and skeletal malformations, and suggested that this effect is independent from homocysteine metabolism and possibly mediated by decreasing the abnormal apoptosis during organogenesis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes