The purpose of this study was to evaluate the influence of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) deficiency on fetal growth, perinatal survival, and limb development in a mouse model with a targeted mutagenesis of the Nos3 gene. Wild-type (Nos3 / ) and eNOS-deficient fetuses (Nos3−/−) were evaluated on Gestational Day (E)15 and E17, and newborn pups were observed on Day 1 of life (D1). The average term duration of pregnancy was 19 days. For the evaluation of postnatal development, a breeding scheme consisting of Nos3 /−× Nos3 /−and Nos3−/− × Nos3−/− mice was established, and offspring were observed for 3 wk. Southern blotting was used for genotyping. No significant differences in fetal weight, crown-rump lengths (CRL), and placental weight were seen between Nos3 / and Nos3−/− fetuses on E15. By E17, Nos3−/− fetuses showed significantly reduced fetal weights, CRL, and placental weights. This difference in body weight was also seen throughout the whole postnatal period. In pregnancies of Nos3−/− females, the average number of pups alive on D1 was significantly decreased compared to either E15 or E17. Placental histology revealed no abnormalities. On E15, E17, and D1, Nos3−/− fetuses demonstrated focal acute hemorrhages in the distal limbs in 0%, 2.6%, and 5.7%, respectively, of all mutant mice studied on the respective days. Bone measurements showed significantly shorter bones in the peripheral digits of hindpaws of Nos3−/− newborns. We conclude mice deficient for eNOS show characteristically abnormal prenatal and postnatal development including fetal growth restriction, reduced survival, and an increased rate of limb abnormalities. The development of this characteristic phenotype of eNOS-deficient mice dates back to the prenatal development during the late third trimester of pregnancy.
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