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Physiol Rev. 2014 Oct;94(4):1143-218. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00014.2014.

Bone development and mineral homeostasis in the fetus and neonate: roles of the calciotropic and phosphotropic hormones.

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Faculty of Medicine-Endocrinology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.


Mineral and bone metabolism are regulated differently in utero compared with the adult. The fetal kidneys, intestines, and skeleton are not dominant sources of mineral supply for the fetus. Instead, the placenta meets the fetal need for mineral by actively transporting calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium from the maternal circulation. These minerals are maintained in the fetal circulation at higher concentrations than in the mother and normal adult, and such high levels appear necessary for the developing skeleton to accrete a normal amount of mineral by term. Parathyroid hormone (PTH) and calcitriol circulate at low concentrations in the fetal circulation. Fetal bone development and the regulation of serum minerals are critically dependent on PTH and PTH-related protein, but not vitamin D/calcitriol, fibroblast growth factor-23, calcitonin, or the sex steroids. After birth, the serum calcium falls and phosphorus rises before gradually reaching adult values over the subsequent 24-48 h. The intestines are the main source of mineral for the neonate, while the kidneys reabsorb mineral, and bone turnover contributes mineral to the circulation. This switch in the regulation of mineral homeostasis is triggered by loss of the placenta and a postnatal fall in serum calcium, and is followed in sequence by a rise in PTH and then an increase in calcitriol. Intestinal calcium absorption is initially a passive process facilitated by lactose, but later becomes active and calcitriol-dependent. However, calcitriol's role can be bypassed by increasing the calcium content of the diet, or by parenteral administration of calcium.

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