Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) was discovered 80 years ago to be an indispensable nutrient for reproduction in the female. However, it has not been clarified when or where vitamin E is required during pregnancy. We examined the role of alpha-tocopherol in pregnancy using alpha-tocopherol transfer protein (Ttpa)-deficient mice fed specific alpha-tocopherol diets that led to daily, measurable change in plasma alpha-tocopherol levels from nearly normal to almost undetectable levels. A dietary supplement of alpha-tocopherol to pregnant Ttpa−/− (homozygous null) mice was shown to be essential for maintenance of pregnancy from 6.5 to 13.5 days postcoitum but found not to be crucial before or after this time span, which corresponds to initial development and maturation of the placenta. In addition, exposure to a low alpha-tocopherol environment after initiation of placental formation might result in necrosis of placental syncytiotrophoblast cells, followed by necrosis of fetal blood vessel endothelial cells. When Ttpa−/−-fertilized eggs were transferred into Ttpa / (wild-type) recipients, plasma alpha-tocopherol concentrations in the Ttpa−/− fetuses were below the detection limit but the fetuses grew normally. These results indicate that alpha-tocopherol is indispensable for the proliferation and/or function of the placenta but not necessary for development of the embryo itself.
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1 November 2005
Vitamin E Is Essential for Mouse Placentation but Not for Embryonic Development Itself