Prenatal prednisone exposure impacts liver development and function in fetal mice and its characteristics

Toxicol Sci. 2024 Apr 29;199(1):63-80. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfae027.


Prednisone, a widely used glucocorticoid drug in human and veterinary medicine, has been reported to cause developmental toxicity. However, systematic studies about the effect of prednisone on fetal liver development are still unclear. We investigated the potential effects of maternal exposure to clinically equivalent doses of prednisone during different gestational stages on cell proliferation and apoptosis, cell differentiation, glucose and lipid metabolism, and hematopoiesis in the liver of fetal mice, and explored the potential mechanisms. Results showed that prenatal prednisone exposure (PPE) could suppress cell proliferation, inhibit hepatocyte differentiation, and promote cholangiocyte differentiation in the fetal liver. Meanwhile, PPE could result in the enhancement of glyconeogenesis and bile acid synthesis and the inhibition of fatty acid β-oxidation and hematopoiesis in the fetal liver. Further analysis found that PPE-induced alterations in liver development had obvious stage and sex differences. Overall, the alteration in fetal liver development and function induced by PPE was most pronounced during the whole pregnancy (GD0-18), and the males were relatively more affected than the females. Additionally, fetal hepatic insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) signaling pathway was inhibited by PPE. In conclusion, PPE could impact fetal liver development and multiple functions, and these alterations might be partially related to the inhibition of IGF1 signaling pathway.

Keywords: IGF1 signaling pathway; cell proliferation; liver development; prednisone; prenatal exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / drug effects
  • Glucocorticoids / toxicity
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Liver* / drug effects
  • Liver* / embryology
  • Liver* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Mice
  • Prednisone* / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Prednisone
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I