Maternal stress retards fetal development in mice with transcriptome-wide impact on gene expression profiles of the limb

Han Kyoung Choe, Gi Hoon Son, Sooyoung Chung, Myungjin Kim, Woong Sun, Hyun Kim, Dongho Geum, Kyungjin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The environment of a pregnant mother has a life-long impact on later life of offspring. Maternal stress is known to cause low birth weight and programs several physiological dysfunctions in offspring. However, the direct effects of maternal stress on the developing fetus remain largely unknown. The present study focused on the effect of chronic maternal stress on the developmental program and its molecular mechanisms. Pregnant mice were given 6-hour immobilization stress every day from 8.5 days post coitum. Fetal body weight was significantly decreased by maternal stress throughout development. Importantly, developmental events were retarded in the stressed fetuses. Around embryonic day 13.5 (E13.5), the developmental increment of somite numbers was delayed, although this difference recovered by E15.5. Limb bud formation and regression of interdigital webbing were also retarded by approximately 0.5 days. Subsequently, transcriptomes of developing limbs were analyzed by cDNA microarrays. Approximately, one-tenth of detected transcripts were significantly influenced by maternal stress. Q-PCR AQ analyses further demonstrated that the expression of a subset of limb development-associated genes, including Igf1, Aldh1a2, and Acta1, was changed in the stressed fetus. In conclusion, our findings suggest that maternal stress can retard limb and somite development in mice, with profound impacts on the developmental genetic program of limb.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-204
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Maternal stress
  • developmental retardation
  • embryonic development
  • environmental programing
  • gene expression
  • growth retardation


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