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Early Hum Dev. 2009 Jun;85(6):361-7. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2008.12.015. Epub 2009 Feb 1.

Uteroplacental insufficiency affects kidney VEGF expression in a model of IUGR with compensatory glomerular hypertrophy and hypertension.

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  • 1University of Utah School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Salt Lake City, UT 84158, USA.


Low nephron endowment secondary to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) results in compensatory hypertrophy of the remaining glomeruli, which in turn is associated with hypertension. However, gender differences exist in the response of the kidney to injury, and IUGR female offspring seems protected from an unfavorable outcome. We previously reported differences in gender-specific gene expression in the IUGR kidney as well as increased circulating corticosterone levels following uteroplacental insufficiency (UPI). Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is critical for renal development, is an important candidate in the IUGR kidney since its expression can be regulated by sex-steroids and glucocorticoids. We hypothesize that IUGR leads to altered kidney VEGF expression in a gender-specific manner. Following uterine ligation in the pregnant rat, UPI decreases renal VEGF levels in male and female IUGR animals at birth and through postnatal day 21. However, by day 120 of life, IUGR females have increased kidney VEGF expression, not present in the IUGR males. In addition, IUGR males exhibit increased serum testosterone levels as well as proteinuria. These findings are intriguing in light of the difference in glomerular hypertrophy observed: IUGR males show increased glomerular area when compared to IUGR females. In this model characterized by decreased nephron number and adult onset hypertension, UPI decreases renal VEGF expression during nephrogenesis. Our most intriguing finding is the increased renal VEGF levels in adult IUGR females, associated with a more benign phenotype. We suggest that the mechanisms underlying renal disease in response to IUGR are most likely regulated in a gender specific manner.

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