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Type: Journal article
Title: The effect of intrafetal infusion of metyrapone on arterial blood pressure and on the arterial blood pressure response to angiotensin II in the sheep fetus during late gestation
Author: Warnes, K.
Coulter, C.
Robinson, J.
McMillen, I.
Citation: The Journal of Physiology, 2003; 552(2):621-633
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Issue Date: 2003
ISSN: 0022-3751
Statement of
K. E. Warnes, C. L. Coulter, J. S. Robinson, I. C. McMillen
Abstract: While the impact of exogenous glucocorticoids on the fetal cardiovascular system has been well defined, relatively few studies have characterised the role of endogenous fetal glucocorticoids in the regulation of arterial blood pressure (BP) during late gestation. We have therefore infused metyrapone, an inhibitor of cortisol biosynthesis, into fetal sheep from 125 days gestation (when fetal cortisol concentrations are low) and from 137 days gestation (when fetal cortisol concentrations are increasing) and measured fetal plasma cortisol, 11-desoxycortisol and ACTH, fetal systolic, diastolic and mean arterial BP, heart rate, and the fetal BP responses to increasing doses of angiotensin II (AII). At 125 days gestation, there was a significant increase in fetal plasma ACTH and 11-desoxycortisol by 24 h after (+24 h) the start of the metyrapone infusion, and plasma cortisol concentrations were not different at +24 h when compared with pre-infusion values. Whilst the initial fall in circulating cortisol concentrations may have been transient, systolic, diastolic and mean arterial BP were 5–6 mmHg lower (P < 0.05) in metyrapone- than in vehicle-infused fetuses at 24–48 h after the start of the infusion. When metyrapone was infused from 137/138 days gestation, there was a significant decrease in plasma cortisol concentrations by +6 h, which was followed by an increase back to pre-infusion values. While cortisol concentrations decreased, there was no change in fetal mean arterial BP during the first 24 h after the start of metyrapone infusion. Mean fetal arterial BP values at 137–139 days gestation were not different in fetuses that had been infused with either vehicle or metyrapone from 125 days gestation or with metyrapone from 137–138 days gestation. At 137–139 days gestation, however, arterial BP responses to increasing doses of AII were significantly blunted in fetuses that had been infused with metyrapone from 125 days gestation, when compared with fetuses that had been infused with metyrapone from 137/138 days gestation or with vehicle from 125 days gestation. The dissociation of the gestational age increase in arterial BP and the effects of intrafetal AII on fetal arterial BP indicates that increase in fetal BP with gestational age is not entirely a result of an increased vascular responsiveness to endogenous AII. Furthermore there may be a critical window during late gestation when the actions of cortisol contribute to the development of vascular responsiveness to AII.
Keywords: Fetus
Blood Glucose
Angiotensin II
Blood Gas Analysis
Gestational Age
Blood Pressure
Heart Rate, Fetal
Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
Description: The definitive version is available at
DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7793.2003.00621.x
Published version:
Appears in Collections:Aurora harvest
Obstetrics and Gynaecology publications

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