Biochemical characterization of retinal protein and phospholipid synthesis in mice exposed transplacentally to N-methyl-N-nitrosourea

Sylvia B. Smith, Paul J. O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Transplacental exposure to the DNA alkylating agent N-methyl-N-nitrosourea on day 16 of gestation in CD-1 albino mice induces a degeneration of the retina, the severity of which depends upon the dosage level of the drug. A 1 mg kg-1 dose provokes a progressive retinal degeneration in the offspring which begins at about 4-6 weeks of age and is characterized by gradual thinning of the retinal layers. A 15 mg kg-1 dosage of MNU provokes severe retinal dysplasia characterized morphologically by rosettes in the outer nuclear layer and loss of rod outer segments (ROS). In the present biochemical experiments, retinal protein synthesis was examined in mice 2-, 4-, and 6 weeks of age exposed to 1 mg kg-1 MNU and 2- and 5 weeks of age exposed to 15 mg kg-1 MNU. Phospholipid synthesis was examined in mice 2-, 4-, 6- and 12 weeks of age exposed to 1 mg kg-1 MNU and at 2 weeks in mice exposed to 15 mg kg-1 MNU. Retinas were incubated for 2 hr at 37°C in media supplemented with either [3H]leucine for protein synthesis studies or [3H]glycerol for phospholipid synthesis experiments. Aliquots of crude ROS and the retinal debris were taken for protein determination, scintillation counting, SDS-PAGE separation of labeled opsin, phosphorus determination and TLC separation of phospholipids. Results indicated that mice exposed to 1 mg kg-1 MNU did not differ significantly from age-matched controls in these measurements, whereas mice exposed to 15 mg kg-1 MNU were significantly different from controls. These results suggest that even as early as 2 weeks of age protein and lipid metabolism are adversely affected in mice exposed to the higher dose of the alkylating agent at a critical time in retinal development, but general protein and lipid synthesis is not affected in animals exposed to 1 mg kg-1 MNU at least up to 12 weeks of age. These studies suggest further investigation of more subtle derangement in the retinal function in animals exposed to low levels of MNU.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-725
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental eye research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1988
Externally publishedYes



  • N-methyl-N-nitrosourea
  • alkylating agent
  • animal models
  • retinal degeneration
  • retinal phospholipid synthesis
  • retinal protein synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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