Intrauterine growth retardation: evidence for the activation of the insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-related growth-promoting machinery and the presence of a cation-independent IGF binding protein-3 proteolytic activity by two months of life

Pediatr Res. 1998 Sep;44(3):374-80. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199809000-00018.


Thirty-seven children with intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) were enrolled in a 3-mo longitudinal study. Weight, length, and knee-heel length (by knemometry) were measured at birth and at 7, 14, 30, 60, and 90 d. GH, IGF-I, IGF binding protein (BP)-3, IGFBP-1, and C-peptide were measured at birth and at 2 mo. IGFBP-3 Western immunoblotting and proteolytic activity assay were also performed. Twenty-five newborns with birth weight appropriate for gestational age were chosen as controls. At birth IUGR newborns showed levels of GH and IGFBP-1 significantly higher, and IGF-I, IGFBP-3, and C-peptide significantly lower than control subjects. At 2 mo GH and IGFBP-1 levels decreased, whereas IGF-I, IGFBP-3, and C-peptide rose, attaining the concentrations found in control subjects at birth. Baseline peptide levels as well as their 2-mo variations did not correlate with the gain in weight, supine length, and knee-heel length recorded at 3 mo. Fourteen of nineteen IUGR cord blood samples showed the presence of the intact approximately 42-39-kD IGFBP-3 doublet and the major approximately 29-kD fragment. At 2 mo the IGFBP-3 band pattern was characterized by the predominance of a approximately 18-kD fragment in 6 of 19 tested IUGR infants. The incubation of 2-mo IUGR samples with normal adult serum induced the appearance of the approximately 18-kD band, which was not modified by the addition of EDTA. These results suggest that: 1) the IGF-related growth-promoting mechanism is impaired in IUGR children at birth but is fully restored at 2 mo; 2) the cord blood levels of GH, IGF-I, IGFBP-3, IGFBP-1, and C-peptide are not predictive of the weight and length gain during the first 3 mo of life; 3) IUGR children have at least two different IGFBP-3 proteases, one cation-dependent protease that is present at birth and able to yield the major approximately 29-kD IGFBP-3 fragment and a second one, with a different activation timing, which exhibits cation independence and induces the formation of a approximately 18-kD IGFBP-3 form.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Birth Weight
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / blood
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 1 / physiology*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / physiology*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / physiology*
  • Pregnancy


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 1
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I