Research ArticleReproductive Biology

Temperature-activated ion channels in neural crest cells confer maternal fever–associated birth defects

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Sci. Signal.  10 Oct 2017:
Vol. 10, Issue 500, eaal4055
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aal4055

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Fevers, TRPV channels, and birth defects

Cardiac and craniofacial birth defects are common, but many cannot be attributed to specific mutations. An environmental trigger associated with these birth defects is fever during the first trimester. Using chick or zebrafish embryos, Hutson et al. found that hyperthermia activated temperature-sensitive TRPV1 and TRPV4 ion channels in neural crest cells, which give rise to the tissues affected by the birth defects. The authors developed a noninvasive method of transiently activating TRPV1 or TRPV4 in neural crest cells in chick embryos to mimic fever-induced stimulation of these channels. TRPV1 or TRPV4 activation resulted in cardiac and craniofacial birth defects similar to those induced by fever. These results suggest that preventing TRPV1 and TRPV4 activation during first trimester febrile episodes may reduce the incidence of common forms of birth defects.