Effects of antenatal glucocorticoids on cerebral protein synthesis in the preterm ovine fetus

Jeremy McCallum, Norman Smith, James N. MacLachlan, Turhan Coksaygan, Matthias Schwab, Peter Nathanielsz, Bryan S. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: Although antenatal glucocorticoids have well-known benefits for infants who are born preterm by the enhancement of pulmonary maturation, adverse effects on brain growth and development have been reported in several animal-based studies. We have used the chronically catheterized ovine fetus to determine the effects of synthetic glucocorticoids that are administered at doses used clinically on cerebral protein synthesis during early brain development using [13C]-leucine tracer method. Study Design: Chronically instrumented pregnant sheep at 0.85 gestation received 2 intramuscular injections of betamethasone at 170 μg/kg maternal weight or saline 24 hours apart together with a continuous infusion of L-[1-13C]-leucine to the fetus on the second day of experimentation. Measurements were obtained for fetal plasma leucine enrichment at steady-state and brain tissue intracellular free and protein-bound leucine enrichment at necropsy, followed by the determination of cerebral protein fractional synthetic rates (FSRs). A coefficient of variation was determined for plasma and tissue enrichment measurements to assess the inherent methodologic variance with the use of [13C]-leucine tracer technology. Results: The cerebral protein FSR averaged approximately 112% per day and approximately 35% per day when the intracellular free and plasma enrichment values were used for the precursor pool measurements, respectively, providing for maximal and minimal FSR values. There were no differences between cortical and cerebellar tissues nor between the saline control and the betamethasone animal groups. The coefficient of variation for the plasma-enrichment values averaged approximately 2%; the coefficient of variation for the tissue enrichment values averaged approximately 10%, with an inverse relationship between the [13C]-leucine enrichment values and the coefficient of variation values. Conclusion: Although cerebral FSR values for the preterm ovine fetus are high and indicate high rates of protein synthesis and degradation, we found no evidence that these are altered by betamethasone as used clinically and thereby do not account for the reported structural alterations in the brain after a single-course of antenatal glucocorticoids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103.e1-103.e6
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • antenatal glucocorticoid
  • fetal cerebral protein synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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