Establishment of metabolism and transport pathways in the rodent and human fetal liver

Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Dec 6;14(12):23801-27. doi: 10.3390/ijms141223801.


The ultimate fate of drugs and chemicals in the body is largely regulated by hepatic uptake, metabolism, and excretion. The liver acquires the functional ability to metabolize and transport chemicals during the perinatal period of development. Research using livers from fetal and juvenile rodents and humans has begun to reveal the timing, key enzymes and transporters, and regulatory factors that are responsible for the establishment of hepatic phase I and II metabolism as well as transport. The majority of this research has been limited to relative mRNA and protein quantification. However, the recent utilization of novel technology, such as RNA-Sequencing, and the improved availability and refinement of functional activity assays, has begun to provide more definitive information regarding the extent of hepatic drug disposition in the developing fetus. The goals of this review are to provide an overview of the early regulation of the major phase I and II enzymes and transporters in rodent and human livers and to highlight potential mechanisms that control the ontogeny of chemical metabolism and excretion pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Fetal Development
  • Humans
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver / growth & development
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Transferases / metabolism


  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Transferases