Background. Our understanding of the mechanisms that protect the developing embryo from intrauterine stress is limited. Recently, adenosine has been demonstrated to play a critical role in protecting the embryo against hypoxia via adenosine A1 receptors (A1ARs), which are expressed in the heart, nervous system, and other sites during development. However, the sites of A1AR action that mediate embryo protection are not known. To determine if the heart is a key site of adenosine-mediated embryo protection, A1ARs were selectively deleted in the embryonic heart using a Cre-LoxP system in which the alpha-myosin heavy chain promoter drives Cre-recombinase expression and excision of the A1AR gene from cardiomyocytes. Results. With increasing exposure of maternal hypoxia (10% O2) from 48-96 hours beginning at embryonic day (E) 8.5, embryo viability decreased in the cardiac-A1AR deleted embryos. 48 hours of hypoxia reduced embryonic viability by 49% in embryos exposed from E10.5-12.5 but no effect on viability was observed in younger embryos exposed to hypoxia from E8.5-10.5. After 72 hours of hypoxia, 57.8% of the cardiac-A1AR deleted embryos were either dead or re-absorbed compared to 13.7% of control littermates and after 96 hours 81.6% of cardiac-A1AR deleted embryos were dead or re-absorbed. After 72 hours of hypoxia, cardiac size was reduced significantly more in the cardiac-A1AR deleted hearts compared to controls. Gene expression analysis revealed clusters of genes that are regulated by both hypoxia and A1AR expression. Conclusions. These data identify the embryonic heart as the critical site where adenosine acts to protect the embryo against hypoxia. As such these studies identify a previously unrecognized mechanism of embryo protection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology