Transuteroplacental metabolism of cortisol and cortisone during mid- and late gestation in the baboon

Endocrinology. 1984 Nov;115(5):1946-51. doi: 10.1210/endo-115-5-1946.


We measured uterine extraction (i.e. metabolism) and transuteroplacental interconversion of cortisol (F) and cortisone (E) to determine whether metabolism across the uterus changes during pregnancy and contributes to the MCR of these corticosteroids. On day 100 (n = 4) or 170 (n = 3) of pregnancy (term = day 184), baboons (Papio anubis; 14-18 kg) were sedated with ketamine, and a constant infusion (0.38 ml/min) of 8-12 microCi [3H]F and 9-15 microCi [14C]E in 80 ml 0.9% NaCl-1% ethanol was initiated (time zero) via a maternal antecubital vein. At 60 min, animals were laparotomized, and at 70, 80, and 90 min, blood samples were obtained from right and left uterine veins and from a maternal saphenous vein. At 95 min, a transverse incision was made in the uterus, the fetus was isolated, and blood samples were obtained from the umbilical vein and artery. The cord was then clamped, and the fetus was delivered. Radio-labeled F and E were extracted from serum and purified by sequential paper chromatography, and metabolic parameters were calculated. Endogenous F and E levels were determined by RIA. In the mother, the percent conversions of E to F at midgestation (mean +/- SE; 72 +/- 4) and late gestation (65 +/- 3) were similar and exceeded (P less than 0.01) respective values for oxidation of F to E (51 +/- 7 and 46 +/- 7, respectively), indicating that maternal corticosteroid metabolism favors F formation and is unchanged during the second half of gestation. In contrast, corticosteroid metabolism across the uterus and placenta (transuteroplacental) was altered during pregnancy. At midgestation, transuteroplacental conversion of E to F (37 +/- 9) exceeded (P less than 0.05) the reverse reaction (18 +/- 3), whereas oxidation of F to E at term (28 +/- 4) was 7-fold greater (P less than 0.05) than reduction of E to F (4 +/- 1). At midgestation, essentially all of the F and E in umbilical vein was derived from maternal F. This contrasts with that observed in near-term baboons in which only 41 +/- 9% of the F and 64 +/- 8% of the E entering the fetal circulation was of maternal origin. As a result of uterine, placental, and fetal metabolism, 30% of the F and 15% of the E in maternal circulation were extracted by the uterus at both mid- and late gestation. We conclude that transuteroplacental corticosteroid metabolism changes from reduction at midgestation to oxidation at term.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Cortisone / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fetus / metabolism
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Papio
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Time Factors
  • Tritium
  • Uterus / metabolism*


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Tritium
  • Cortisone
  • Hydrocortisone