Antenatal Corticosteroid Exposure Disrupts Myelination in the Auditory Nerve of Preterm Sheep

Judith Rittenschober-Böhm, Jennifer Rodger, Alan H. Jobe, Suhas G. Kallapur, Dorota A. Doherty, Boris W. Kramer, Matthew S. Payne, Michael Archer, Christian Rittenschober, John P. Newnham, Yuichiro Miura, Angelika Berger, Stephen G. Matthews, Matthew W. Kemp, Wilhelmina Mulders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: Antenatal corticosteroids (ACS) improve preterm neonatal outcomes. However, uncertainty remains regarding the safety of ACS exposure for the developing fetus, particularly its neurosensory development. Objectives: We investigated the effect of single and multiple ACS exposures on auditory nerve development in an ovine model of pregnancy. Methods: Ewes with a single fetus (gestational age [GA] 100 days) received an intramuscular injection of 150 mg medroxyprogesterone-acetate, followed by intramuscular (i) betamethasone (0.5 mg/kg) on days 104, 111, and 118 GA; (ii) betamethasone on day 104 and saline on days 111 and 118 GA; or (iii) saline on days 104, 111, and 118 GA, with delivery on day 125 GA. Transmission electron microscope images of lamb auditory nerve preparations were digitally analyzed to determine auditory nerve morphology and myelination. Results: Relative to the control, mean auditory nerve myelin area was significantly increased in the multiple-treatment group (p < 0.001), but not in the single-treatment group. Increased myelin thickness was significantly changed only in a subgroup analysis for those axons with myelin thickness greater than the median value (p < 0.001). Morphological assessments showed that the increased myelin area was due to an increased likelihood of decompacted areas (p = 0.005; OR = 2.14, 95% CI 1.26–3.63; 31.6 vs. 18.2% in controls) and irregular myelin deposition (p = 0.001; OR = 5.91, 95% CI 2.16–16.19; 49.0 vs. 16.8% in controls) in the myelin sheath. Conclusions: In preterm sheep, ACS exposure increased auditory nerve myelin area, potentially due to disruption of normal myelin deposition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-68
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


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