Pregnant C57BL/6JJcl mice were exposed to γ rays at low dose rate (20 mGy/day, LDR) or medium dose rate (200 and 400 mGy/day, MDR) from gestation day (GD) 0–18 to total accumulated doses of 360, 3,600 and 7,200 mGy, respectively. An additional group of pregnant mice were acutely exposed to 2 Gy at high dose rate (HDR) of 0.77 Gy/min on GD 11. In experiment 1, fetuses collected via cesarean section on GD 18 were examined for external and skeletal abnormalities. While the results of LDR exposure (20 mGy/day) did not significantly differ from the nonirradiated controls in all parameters examined, MDR (200 and 400 mGy/day) and acute HDR (2 Gy) exposure caused growth retardation and significantly increased incidence of unossified bones. Increased incidence of external abnormalities was observed only in the acute HDR group. In experiment 2, the dams were allowed to give birth and the pups were clinically monitored and weighed periodically until 10 weeks of age when they were sacrificed and subjected to pathological examination. Pups exposed at MDRs of 200 and 400 mGy/dayand at acute HDR of 0.77 Gy/min had lower bodyweights from weaning (3 weeks) to 10 weeks of age except for females exposed to 400 mGy/day MDR. None of the pups exposed to an acute 2 Gy dose on GD 11 survived to 10 weeks of age. Histopathological changes were not significantly different between the nonirradiated control and the 20 mGy/day LDR groups. However, at both MDR exposures of 200 and 400 mGy/day. gonadal (testes and ovary) hypoplasia/atrophy was observed in all the 10-week-old pups. Our results show that in utero LDR exposure to 20 mGy/day for the entire gestation period did not cause any significant effect in pups when compared to the nonirradiated controls up to 10 weeks of age. However, pups exposed in utero to MDRs showed dose-related growth retardation with delayed ossifications (400 mGy/day) and gonadal hypoplasia/atrophy. These findings suggest that increased post-implantation loss in dams exposed at MDR is due to early embryonic deaths resulting in early resorption.

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