The effect of maternal alcohol consumption on the viability and visceral development of the newborn rat

G. I. Henderson, S. Schenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The clinical observations that offspring of pregnant alcoholics are prone to congenital defects and abnormal growth and development (fetal alcohol syndrome) have generated interest in studying this problem in a well controlled model. Accordingly the effects were assessed of long term maternal alcohol intake on offspring viability and growth as well as the DNA, total RNA, protein levels and DNA synthesis in brain, heart, liver, and kidney of 3 day old newborn rats. Chronic oral intake of alcohol (mean 21 wk plus 20 days of gestation) resulted in maternal blood alcohol levels of 67 to over 150 mg %. There was a significant increase of newborn mortality (30%) and a decrease in their body weight at 3 days in alcohol exposed compared to pair fed (non alcohol) control pups (p<0.025). The protein concentration was unchanged in heart, liver, and kidney and was slightly elevated in brain of 3 day old pups exposed to ethanol in utero. DNA synthesis was normal in all 4 organs, while the DNA concentration was significantly lower only in the liver of the alcohol exposed group (p<0.05). In the alcohol group the total RNA levels were significantly depressed by about 10-30 % (p<0.05) in all 4 organs studied. It is concluded that prolonged maternal alcohol intake may have an adverse effect on newborn rat viability and growth as well as on the total RNA and to some extent DNA concentration of vital organs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-32
Number of pages18
JournalResearch Communications in Chemical Pathology and Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1977
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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