Cadmium-induced embryopathy: nitric oxide rescues teratogenic effects of cadmium

Vimal Veeriah, Uttara Saran, Akila Swaminathan, Uma Maheswari Balaguru, Pradeep Thangaraj, Shunmugam Nagarajan, Vinoth Kumar Rajendran, Suvro Chatterjee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Although Cadmium (Cd) is a well-known heavy metal pollutant and teratogen, the mechanism behind Cd-mediated teratogenicity remains unknown. Previously, we have reported of the protective role of Nitric oxide (NO), a key signaling molecule in the embryonic developmental process, against Thalidomide-induced teratogenicity. The objective of this study was to obtain a mechanistic in-sight of the antiteratogenic potential of NO against Cd-mediated teratogenicity. To achieve this goal, we first studied the effect of Cd on the vasculature of developing embryos and then we investigated whether Cd mediated its effects by interfering with the redox regulation of NO signaling in the early development milieu. We used a chick embryonic model to determine the time and dose-dependent effects of Cd and NO recovery against Cd assault. The effects of Cd and NO recovery were assessed using various angiogenic assays. Redox and NO levels were also measured. Results demonstrated that exposure to Cd at early stage of development caused multiple birth defects in the chick embryos. Exposure to Cd suppressed endogenous NO levels and cGMP signaling, inhibiting angioblast activation and subsequently impairing yolk sac vascular development. Furthermore, Cd-induced superoxide and lipid peroxidation mediated activation of proapoptotic markers p21 and p53 in the developing embryo. Cd also caused the down-regulation of FOXO1, and upregulation of FOXO3a and Caspase 3-mediated apoptosis. Addition of exogenous NO through a NO donor was able to blunt Cd-mediated effects and restore normal vascular and embryonic development. In conclusion, Cd-mediated teratogenicity occurs as a result of impaired NO-cGMP signaling, increased oxidative stress, and the activation of apoptotic pathways. Subsequent addition of exogenous NO through NO donor negated Cd-mediated effects and protected the developing embryo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-104
Number of pages15
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • cadmium
  • embryopathy
  • nitric oxide
  • nitric oxide donor
  • redox stress


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