Intrauterine programming of physiological systems: causes and consequences

Physiology (Bethesda). 2006 Feb;21:29-37. doi: 10.1152/physiol.00050.2005.


The intrauterine conditions in which the mammalian fetus develops have an important role in regulating the function of its physiological systems later in life. Changes in the intrauterine availability of nutrients, oxygen, and hormones program tissue development and lead to abnormalities in adult cardiovascular and metabolic function in several species. The timing, duration, severity, and type of insult during development determines the specific physiological outcome. Intrauterine programming of physiological systems occurs at the gene, cell, tissue, organ, and system levels and causes permanent structural and functional changes, which can lead to overt disease, particularly with increasing age.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Endocrine System / physiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / genetics
  • Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation
  • Fetal Hypoxia / genetics
  • Fetal Hypoxia / pathology
  • Fetal Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Fetal Nutrition Disorders / genetics
  • Fetal Nutrition Disorders / pathology
  • Fetal Nutrition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Physiological Phenomena*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Time Factors