Comparison of two weeks versus one week of prenatal ethanol exposure in the rat on gonadal organ weights, sperm count, and onset of puberty

Robert F. Mcgivern, William J. Raum, Robert J. Handa, Rebecca Z. Sokol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Sprague-Dawley dams from Harlan Ind. (Indianapolis, IN) were administered a fortified ethanol liquid diet containing 35% ethanol derived calories for two weeks (E-2) beginning on day 7 or one week (E-1) beginning on day 13 of gestation and continuing through parturition. Control dams were pair-fed an isocaloric liquid diet containing no ethanol during these periods or remained on lab chow and water. E-2 dams consumed an average of 13.52 g ethanol/kg bwt during the first week of exposure (days 8-14) and 12.50 g ethanol/kg bwt the second week (days 14-20). E-1 dams consumed significantly less than E-2 dams during the second week (9.75 g/kg; p < 0.0001). Although the lower consumption in E-1 dams led to a significant decrease in maternal weight gained during the few days of pregnancy compared to E-2 dams, birthweights of E-1 offspring were significantly heavier than those of E-2 offspring (p < 0.05). No effect of ethanol was detected on anogenital distance at birth in either sex. Puberty was delayed in female offspring of both E-1 and E-2 dams (p < 0.01) as measured by age of vaginal opening. These data suggest that the primary teratogenic actions of ethanol in the rat on fetal growth, as well as delayed puberty in females, occur in the last week of gestation. In adult E-2 males, testis weight was significantly heavier than all other groups when indexed to body weight. No effect of prenatal ethanol exposure was observed on the indexed weights of prostate, epididymis, or seminal vesicles. Adult plasma testosterone levels and sperm counts also were not significantly influenced by prenatal ethanol exposure. Overall, we failed to observe long-term effects of ethanol on the reproductive system of male Sprague-Dawley rats as reported in other strains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-358
Number of pages8
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1992


  • Anogenital distance
  • Ovary
  • Prenatal ethanol gonads
  • Puberty
  • Rat
  • Sperm count
  • Testis
  • Testosterone
  • Vaginal opening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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