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Exp Physiol. 2015 Dec;100(12):1477-87. doi: 10.1113/EP085212. Epub 2015 Jul 14.

Glucocorticoids as regulatory signals during intrauterine development.

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1
Centre for Trophoblast Research and Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3EG, UK.

Abstract

What is the topic of this review? This review discusses the role of the glucocorticoids as regulatory signals during intrauterine development. It examines the functional significance of these hormones as maturational, environmental and programming signals in determining offspring phenotype. What advances does it highlight? It focuses on the extensive nature of the regulatory actions of these hormones. It highlights the emerging data that these actions are mediated, in part, by the placenta, other endocrine systems and epigenetic modifications of the genome. Glucocorticoids are important regulatory signals during intrauterine development. They act as maturational, environmental and programming signals that modify the developing phenotype to optimize offspring viability and fitness. They affect development of a wide range of fetal tissues by inducing changes in cellular expression of structural, transport and signalling proteins, which have widespread functional consequences at the whole organ and systems levels. Glucocorticoids, therefore, activate many of the physiological systems that have little function in utero but are vital at birth to replace the respiratory, nutritive and excretory functions previously carried out by the placenta. However, by switching tissues from accretion to differentiation, early glucocorticoid overexposure in response to adverse conditions can programme fetal development with longer term physiological consequences for the adult offspring, which can extend to the next generation. The developmental effects of the glucocorticoids can be direct on fetal tissues with glucocorticoid receptors or mediated by changes in placental function or other endocrine systems. At the molecular level, glucocorticoids can act directly on gene transcription via their receptors or indirectly by epigenetic modifications of the genome. In this review, we examine the role and functional significance of glucocorticoids as regulatory signals during intrauterine development and discuss the mechanisms by which they act in utero to alter the developing epigenome and ensuing phenotype.

PMID:
26040783
DOI:
10.1113/EP085212
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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