The roles of placental growth hormone and placental lactogen in the regulation of human fetal growth and development

J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Apr;13(4):343-56. doi: 10.1515/jpem.2000.13.4.343.


The human growth hormone (hGH)/human placental lactogen (hPL) gene family, which consists of two GH and three PL genes, is important in the regulation of maternal and fetal metabolism and the growth and development of the fetus. During pregnancy, pituitary GH (hGH-N) expression in the mother is suppressed; and hGH-V, a GH variant expressed by the placenta, becomes the predominant GH in the mother. hPL, which is the product of the hPL-A and hPL-B genes, is secreted into both the maternal and fetal circulations after the sixth week of pregnancy. hGH-V and hPL act in concert in the mother to stimulate insulin-like growth factor (IGF) production and modulate intermediary metabolism, resulting in an increase in the availability of glucose and amino acids to the fetus. In the fetus, hPL acts via lactogenic receptors and possibly a unique PL receptor to modulate embryonic development, regulate intermediary metabolism and stimulate the production of IGFs, insulin, adrenocortical hormones and pulmonary surfactant. hGH-N, which is expressed by the fetal pituitary, has little or no physiological actions in the fetus until late in pregnancy due to the lack of functional GH receptors on fetal tissues. hGH-V, which is also a potent somatogenic hormone, is not released into the fetus. Taken together, studies of the hGH/hPL gene family during pregnancy reveal a complex interaction of the hormones with one another and with other growth factors. Additional investigations are necessary to clarify the relative roles of the family members in the regulation of fetal growth and development and the factors that modulate the expression of the genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gene Deletion
  • Growth Hormone / genetics
  • Growth Hormone / physiology*
  • Human Growth Hormone / genetics
  • Human Growth Hormone / physiology
  • Humans
  • Pituitary Gland / embryology
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Placental Hormones / genetics
  • Placental Hormones / physiology*
  • Placental Lactogen / genetics
  • Placental Lactogen / physiology*
  • Pregnancy


  • GH2 protein, human
  • Placental Hormones
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Growth Hormone
  • Placental Lactogen