Fatty acid ethyl esters in meconium: A biomarker of fetal alcohol exposure and effect

Cheng CT, Ostrea Jr EM, Alviedo JN, Banadera FP, Thomas RL. Fatty acid ethyl esters in meconium: A biomarker of fetal alcohol exposure and effect. Experimental Biology and Medicine. November 2020. doi:10.1177/1535370220971562


To determine if meconium fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) in rat pups is a good biomarker of prenatal exposure and effect to alcohol, three groups of pregnant rats were studied: one control (pair fed) and two treatment groups given 25% alcohol at 2.2 or 5.5 g−1 kg−1 d−1. The pups were delivered on day 20 and, for each dam, were separated into a male and female group. The body, brain, intestines, and placenta of the pups were obtained, weighed, and stored at −20°C.

The pups’ intestines (as surrogate of meconium) from each group were pooled, and meconium was analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy for FAEE. The meconium showed the following FAEE: ethyl palmitate, ethyl stearate, and ethyl linolenate and were only found in the alcohol-treated group and with high specificity but low sensitivity. Mean body weight of the pups was lower in the treatment groups compared to the control groups. Ethyl palmitate concentration correlated negatively to the pups’ mean body and brain weights.

Therefore, ethyl palmitate, stearate, and linolenate, in meconium of rat pups prenatally exposed to alcohol, are useful biomarkers of prenatal alcohol exposure, with ethyl palmitate a good biomarker of adverse effect on the pups’ body and brain weight.

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