Prenatal programming of adult blood pressure: Role of maternal corticosteroids

Lori L. Woods, Douglas A. Weeks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Both maternal glucocorticoid administration and maternal dietary protein or food restriction in pregnancy cause fewer nephrons and hypertension in the adult offspring. The purpose of these studies was to determine the extent to which nutritional factors contribute to programming of offspring hypertension by maternal glucocorticoids. Pregnant rats were treated with dexamethasone (100 μg · kg-1 · d-1 sc) on days 1-10 (ED) or days 15-20 (LD) of pregnancy. Additional groups of pregnant animals were pair fed to the early (EDPF) and late (LDPF) dexamethasone-treated groups, and another group was untreated or given vehicle (C). The dams treated with dexamethasone reduced their food intake and lost or failed to gain a normal amount of weight during treatment; body weights of ED dams caught up to normal after the treatment period, whereas those of LD dams did not. In adulthood (∼21 wks), chronically instrumented male offspring of ED had normal blood pressures (125 ± 2 mmHg vs. 126 ± 1 mmHg in C), whereas LD offspring were hypertensive (136 ± 3 mmHg). However, LDPF offspring were equally hypertensive (134 ± 2 mmHg). Glomerular filtration rates normalized to body weight were not significantly different among groups. Qualitatively similar results were found in female offspring. Thus the long-term effects of maternal glucocorticoid administration at this dose on offspring's blood pressure may, in large part, be accounted for by the reduction in maternal food intake. These data suggest that maternal glucocorticoids and maternal food or protein restriction may, at least in part, share a common mechanism in programming offspring for hypertension. The window of sensitivity of future offspring blood pressure to either maternal insult coincides with nephrogenesis in the rat, suggesting that impaired renal development could play an important role in this programming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R955-R962
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4 58-4
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Glomerular filtration rate
  • Hypertension
  • Prenatal dexamethasone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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