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Dolutegravir induced neural tube defects in mice are folate responsive.

AIDS 2023 June 30
OBJECTIVES: In 2018, the Botswana Tsepamo Study reported a nine-fold increased risk of neural tube defects in infants whose mothers were treated with dolutegravir (DTG) from the time of conception. As maternal folate supplementation and status is a well-known modifier of neural tube defect (NTD) risk, we sought to evaluate birth outcomes in mice fed normal and low folic acid diets treated with DTG during pregnancy.

DESIGN: DTG was evaluated for developmental toxicity using pregnant mice fed normal or low folic acid diet.

METHODS: CD-1 mice were provided diet with normal (3 mg per kg) or low (0.3 mg per kg) folic acid. They were treated with water, a human therapeutic-equivalent dose, or supratherapeutic dose of DTG from mouse embryonic day E6.5 to E12.5. Pregnant dams were sacrificed at term (E18.5) and fetuses were inspected for gross, internal, and skeletal defects.

RESULTS: Fetuses with exencephaly, an NTD, were present in both therapeutic human equivalent and supratherapeutic exposures in dams fed low folic acid diet. Palate clefts were also found under both folate conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: Recommended dietary folic acid levels during mouse pregnancy ameliorate developmental defects that arise from DTG exposure. Since low folate status in mice exposed to DTG increases the risk for NTDs, it is possible that DTG exposures in people living with HIV with low folate status during pregnancy may explain, at least in part, the elevated NTD risk signal observed in Botswana. Based on these results, future studies should consider folate status as a modifier for DTG-associated NTD risk.

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