Fetal growth and placental function

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 1998 May 25;140(1-2):115-20. doi: 10.1016/s0303-7207(98)00039-2.


Fetal growth is largely determined by the availability of nutrients to the fetus. The fetus is at the end of a supply line that ensures delivery of nutrients from the maternal/uterine circulation to the fetus via the placenta. However, this supply line can not be regarded as a linear relationship. Maternal undernutrition will not only reduce global nutrient availability but will also influence the maternal and fetal somatotrophic axis. Both endocrine systems react in a very similar way to limited substrate supply. The hormones of the fetal somatotrophic axis, and in particular insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, are important regulators of fetal growth. Placental function is pivotal to materno-fetal nutrient and metabolite transfer. Placental function in turn, is heavily influenced by the maternal and fetal growth hormone (GH)-IGF-1 system. The placenta itself is also an active endocrine organ and it produces a large number of hormones including GH and IGF-1 as well their corresponding receptors. Thus the placenta can no longer be considered merely a passive conduit for fetal nutrition. Rather, it is actively involved in the integration of nutritional and endocrine signals from the maternal and fetal somatotrophic axes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fetus / physiology
  • Growth Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / physiology
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology
  • Placenta / physiology*
  • Pregnancy


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone