Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology
REVIEW

Glucocorticoid-induced changes in glucocorticoid receptor mRNA and protein expression in the human placenta as a potential factor for altering fetal growth and development

Svetlana Bivol A B , Suzzanne J. Owen A and Roselyn B. Rose’Meyer A B C

A School of Medical Sciences, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Parklands Drive, Southport, Qld 4222, Australia.

B Heart Foundation Research Centre, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Parklands Drive, Southport, Qld 4222, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: r.rosemeyer@griffith.edu.au

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 29(5) 845-854 https://doi.org/10.1071/RD15356
Submitted: 4 March 2015  Accepted: 21 December 2015   Published: 5 February 2016

Abstract

Glucocorticoids (GCs) control essential metabolic processes in virtually every cell in the body and play a vital role in the development of fetal tissues and organ systems. The biological actions of GCs are mediated via glucocorticoid receptors (GRs), the cytoplasmic transcription factors that regulate the transcription of genes involved in placental and fetal growth and development. Several experimental studies have demonstrated that fetal exposure to high maternal GC levels early in gestation is associated with adverse fetal outcomes, including low birthweight, intrauterine growth restriction and anatomical and structural abnormalities that may increase the risk of cardiovascular, metabolic and neuroendocrine disorders in adulthood. The response of the fetus to GCs is dependent on gender, with female fetuses becoming hypersensitive to changes in GC levels whereas male fetuses develop GC resistance in the environment of high maternal GCs. In this paper we review GR function and the physiological and pathological effects of GCs on fetal development. We propose that GC-induced changes in the placental structure and function, including alterations in the expression of GR mRNA and protein levels, may play role in inhibiting in utero fetal growth.

Additional keywords: developmental origin of health and disease, glucocorticoid excess.


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