Glucocorticoid exposure in utero: new model for adult hypertension

Lancet. 1993 Feb 6;341(8841):339-41. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(93)90138-7.


Hypertension is strongly predicted by the combination of low birthweight and a large placenta. This association could be due to increased fetal exposure to maternal glucocorticoids. Fetal protection is normally effected by placental 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11 beta-OHSD), which converts physiological glucocorticoids to inactive products. We found that rat placental 11 beta-OHSD activity correlated positively with term fetal weight and negatively with placental weight. Offspring of rats treated during pregnancy with dexamethasone (which is not metabolised by 11 beta-OHSD) had lower birthweights and higher blood pressure when adult than did offspring of control rats. Increased fetal glucocorticoid exposure secondary to attenuated placental 11 beta-OHSD activity may link low birthweight and high placental weight with hypertension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birth Weight / drug effects
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Fetus / drug effects*
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Male
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Placenta / anatomy & histology
  • Placenta / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Dexamethasone