Fetal hypoxia in late gestation is a common cause of postnatal morbidity. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate adrenal function in vivo and in vitro in 7-d-old rat pups previously exposed to normoxia or hypoxia (12% O2) during the last 2-3 d of gestation. Seven-day-old rats exposed to fetal hypoxia had a small, but significant decrease in plasma aldosterone despite no decreases in plasma ACTH or renin activity. There was a small (approx 20%) but significant decrease in the aldosterone and corticosterone response to cAMP in vitro in dispersed cells from 7-d-old pups exposed to fetal hypoxia. The aldosterone, corticosterone, and cAMP response to ACTH, however, was not altered by prior fetal hypoxia. There was also no effect of fetal hypoxia on steroidogenic enzyme expression or zonal dimension in 7-d-old rats. We conclude that fetal hypoxia in late gestation results in a subtle decrease in cAMP-stimulated steroidogenesis. Fetal hypoxia appears to have minimal effects on subsequent adrenal function in the neonatal rat.
- Adrenal cortex