The biomechanical basis of diazepam (Valium/Roche)‐induced neural tube defects in the chick was investigated using a combination of electron microscopy and morphometry. Embryos at stage 8 (four‐somite stage) of development were explanted and grown for 6 hr in nutrient medium containing 400 μg/ml diazepam. Nearly 80% of these embryos exhibited neural tube defects that were most pronounced in the forming midbrain region and typified by a “relaxation” or “collapse” of neural folds. The hindbrain and spinal cord regions were less affected. Electron microscopy revealed that neuroepithelial cells in diazepam‐treated embryos had smoother apical surfaces and broader apical widths than did controls. Morphometric measurements supported this observation and further showed that these effects were focused at sites within the wall of the forming neural tube that typically exhibit the greatest degree of bending and apical constriction (i.e., the floor and midlateral walls). Overall results indicate that neural tube defects associated with exposure to diazepam are due largely to a general inhibition of the contractile activity of apical microfilament bundles in neuroepithelial cells. These findings 1) emphasize the important contribution of microfilament‐mediated apical constriction of neuroepithelial cells in providing the driving forces for bending of the neuroepithelium during neural tube formation and 2) suggest that agents or conditions that impair their contractile activity could play a role in the pathogenesis of certain types of neural tube defects.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental Biology
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis