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Type: Journal article
Title: Early embryonic environment the fetal pituitary-adrenal axis and the timing of parturition
Author: McMillen, I.
Schwartz, J.
Coulter, C.
Edwards, L.
Citation: Endocrine Research, 2004; 30(4):845-850
Publisher: Marcel Dekker Inc
Issue Date: 2004
ISSN: 0743-5800
Statement of
McMillen, I. C.; Schwartz, J.; Coulter, C. L. and Edwards, L. J.
Abstract: It is well established in the sheep, that the normal timing of parturition is dependent on a prepartum activation of the fetal pituitary-adrenal axis. We have recently demonstrated for the first time that embryo number, embryo sex, and alterations in the environment of the early embryo, including exposure to maternal undernutrition during the periconceptional period, alter the timing and level of activation of the pituitary-adrenal axis in the sheep fetus during late gestation. There is a delay in activation of the fetal HPA axis in twin fetuses and we speculate that the diminished adrenocortical responsiveness in the twin fetus may be an adaptive response, which counters the impact of the potential enhanced intrauterine stress experienced by a twin fetus, thereby reducing the possibility of preterm delivery. We have also reported that a moderate restriction of maternal nutrition to during the periconceptional period (from 60 days before and for one week after conception) resulted in an earlier activation of the pituitary-adrenal axis of twin, but not singleton, fetuses during late gestation. A series of studies using assisted reproductive technologies have also found that perturbation of the early embryonic environment results in a dysregulation of placental and fetal growth and development and in the timing of normal parturition. In summary, after several decades of work focused on events in late gestation associated with the prepartum activation and stress responsiveness of the fetal HPA axis, our recent studies indicate that the environment of the early embryo may have a significant role to play in determining the timing and level of the prepartum activation of this axis and potentially on the functional capacity of the axis to respond to acute or chronic stress in later life.
Keywords: Pituitary-Adrenal System; Fetus; Animals; Sheep; Parturition; Time Factors
RMID: 0020073374
DOI: 10.1081/ERC-200044106
Appears in Collections:Physiology publications

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