Dexamethasone is a common synthetic glucocorticoid drug that can promote foetal lung maturity. An increasing number of studies have shown that prenatal dexamethasone exposure (PDE) can cause a variety of short-term and long-term hazards to offspring, including bone development toxicity. H-type vessels are a newly discovered subtype of blood vessels associated with promoted bone formation and maintenance of bone mass. In this study, we aimed to explore whether H-type blood vessels are involved in PDE-induced long bone development toxicity in offspring and its mechanism. In vivo, we injected dexamethasone (0.2 mg/kg.d) subcutaneously at gestational days 9-20 and observed the H-type vessel abundance and bone mass at different time points in the offspring rats. In vitro, we investigated the effect of dexamethasone (0, 20, 100, and 500 nM) on the tube formation function of rat bone marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) and explored its mechanism. Our results showed that the adult PDE female offspring rats were susceptible to osteoporosis. In addition, PDE inhibited bone mass, H-type vessel formation and the expression of bone platelet-derived growth factor receptor β (PDGFRβ)/focal adhesion kinase (FAK) pathway-related genes in antenatal and postnatal female offspring. Moreover, PDE promoted the expression of bone glucocorticoid receptor (GR), CCAAT and enhancer binding protein α (C/EBPα) and miR-34c in female foetuses. Dexamethasone suppressed the tube formation of rat bone marrow-derived EPCs and the activity of the PDGFRβ/FAK pathway, which was mediated by GR/C/EBPα/miR-34c signalling activation. In summary, PDE can cause H-type vessel dysplasia and high susceptibility to osteoporosis in female offspring, and its mechanism is related to the low-activity programming of the PDGFRβ/FAK pathway induced by GR/C/EBPα/miR-34c signalling activation. This study enhances the understanding of the molecular mechanism of dexamethasone-induced bone development toxicity and provides new insights for exploring the early intervention and therapeutic targets of foetal-derived osteoporosis.
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