Cytochrome P-450 3A (CYP3A) together with its nuclear receptors plays a critical role in drug metabolism. The present study investigated the effects of undernutrition in utero on hepatic mRNA and protein expression of the enzyme CYP3A23/3A1 and nuclear receptors including pregnane X receptor (PXR; NR1I2), constitutive androstane receptor (CAR; NR1I3) and nuclear factor-4alpha (HNF4alpha; HNF4A) in neonatal rats. At gestational day 2, pregnant rats were randomly divided into two groups: nourished (fed ad libitum) and undernourished (50% of nourished group). The pups delivered by nourished rats were designated as the normal-birth-weight group (NBW, n=15) and those delivered by undernourished rats were designated as the low-birth-weight group (LBW, n=15). Hepatic mRNA expression was detected by quantitative real-time PCR and the corresponding protein expression was examined by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Compared with NBW pups, LBW pups tended to have lower mRNA expression levels of CYP3A23/3A1, PXR and CAR but higher levels of HNF4alpha. Only the CAR mRNA expression differences were significant (p<0.05). mRNA expression of CYP3A23/3A1 correlated with that of HNF4alpha in both the LBW(r=0.808, p=0.007) and NBW (r=0.452, p=0.012) groups. CYP3A23/3A1 and CAR protein expression differed between the two groups (CYP3A23/3A1, chi(2)=7.87, p=0.005; CAR, chi(2)=12.069, p=0.001). In conclusion, these findings suggest that undernutrition may influence the mRNA expression of CAR and protein expression of both CYP3A23/3A1 and CAR in neonatal rats. Since CYP3A23/3A1 and CAR are critically involved in drug metabolism, these results may have clinical implications for optimal medication in LBW children.
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