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Early Hum Dev. 2005 Sep;81(9):723-34.

Endocrine and metabolic programming during intrauterine development.

Author information

  • 1Department of Physiology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EG, UK. alf1000@cam.ac.uk


In humans, low birth weight is associated with an increased risk of metabolic dysfunction in adult life. Many of these metabolic disorders have an endocrine origin and are accompanied by abnormal hormone concentrations. This has led to the hypothesis that adult metabolic disease arises in utero as a result of programming of key endocrine systems during suboptimal intrauterine conditions associated with fetal growth retardation. This review examines the experimental evidence for prenatal endocrine programming with particular emphasis on endocrine axes involved in growth and metabolism, namely, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the endocrine pancreas and the somatotrophic axis. It also considers how changes in these endocrine systems contribute to the programming of metabolism in later life.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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