A significant development in prenatal care over the last 30 years is the treatment of pregnant women at risk for premature delivery with synthetic corticosteroids to facilitate fetal lung maturation. However, data from experimental animals and epidemiological studies have raised concerns about the possible untoward consequences of prenatal exposure to excess glucocorticoids. During the past five years we have studied the programming effects of antenatal steroid therapy in a widely used sheep model and in a cohort of adolescents. Among the programming effects of antenatal steroids we have observed in the sheep are increases in blood pressure, reductions in nephron number, alterations in the intrarenal renin-angiotensin system (RAS) including decreased angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), increased angiotensin type 1 receptor expression, and an increased Ang li to Ang(1-7) ratio all of which favor increased tone from Ang li stimulation of its type 1 receptor in conjunction with the altered RAS, we find impairments in the ability to excrete a sodium load, decreases in baroreflex sensitivity (SRS) and heart rate variability (HRV) and increases in insulin resistance in the animal model. In the steroid exposed adolescents there is lower urinary ACE2, an increased ratio of urinary Ang il to Ang (1-7) and higher levels of urinary albumin. Thus, there appear to be several commonalities in the responses to antenatal steroids in the animal model and the adolescents. To further establish these programming effects and their consequences, we propose a series of studies in this application to examine the mechanisms of the steroid-induced alterations in renal function (Projects 1 &4), BRS (Projects 3 &4), insulin resistance (Projects 2 &4) and the possibility that obesity acts as a "second hit" and exacerbates the effects of antenatal steroid exposure in both the animal model and the adolescents (Projects 1, 2 &4). Our hypothesis is that there will be greater impact of the adverse programming effects of antenatal steroids in offspring who are obese. If this proves to be the case our studies will identify an at risk population and a modifiable risk factor. Therefore our work may promote the identification of new, early intervention strategies to reduce the risk of hypertension as well as renal and metabolic abnormalities in antenatal steroid exposed individuals.

Public Health Relevance

Synthetic glucocorticoids are routinely given to pregnant women who threaten to deliver prematurely in order to enhance survival and reduce morbidity in their newborn infants. We now know that antenatal steroid exposure can reduce baroreflex sensitivity, increase blood pressure, impair renal development and function, and produce insulin resistance in experimental animals and we have observed some similar effects in a group of children studied at 14 years of age. Studies we propose here have a long-term goal of developing approaches for reducing the risk of developing diseases such as hypertension and metabolic syndrome in this population exposed to corticosteroids before birth.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Program Projects (P01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-DSR-Z (RJ))
Program Officer
Ilekis, John V
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Wake Forest University Health Sciences
Obstetrics & Gynecology
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Chappell, Mark C (2016) Biochemical evaluation of the renin-angiotensin system: the good, bad, and absolute? Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 310:H137-52
Nixon, Patricia A; Washburn, Lisa K; Michael O'Shea, Thomas et al. (2016) Antenatal steroid exposure and heart rate variability in adolescents born with very low birth weight. Pediatr Res :
Chen, Kai; Bi, Jianli; Su, Yixin et al. (2016) Sex-Specific Changes in Renal Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme and Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 Gene Expression and Enzyme Activity at Birth and Over the First Year of Life. Reprod Sci 23:200-10
Su, Yixin; Bi, Jianli; Pulgar, Victor M et al. (2015) Antenatal glucocorticoid treatment alters Na+ uptake in renal proximal tubule cells from adult offspring in a sex-specific manner. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 308:F1268-75
Washburn, Lisa K; Brosnihan, K Bridget; Chappell, Mark C et al. (2015) The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system in adolescent offspring born prematurely to mothers with preeclampsia. J Renin Angiotensin Aldosterone Syst 16:529-38
Washburn, Lisa K; Nixon, Patricia A; Russell, Gregory B et al. (2015) Preterm Birth Is Associated with Higher Uric Acid Levels in Adolescents. J Pediatr 167:76-80
Wilson, Bryan A; Cruz-Diaz, Nildris; Marshall, Allyson C et al. (2015) An angiotensin-(1-7) peptidase in the kidney cortex, proximal tubules, and human HK-2 epithelial cells that is distinct from insulin-degrading enzyme. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 308:F594-601
Bi, Jianli; Contag, Stephen A; Chen, Kai et al. (2014) Sex-specific effect of antenatal betamethasone exposure on renal oxidative stress induced by angiotensins in adult sheep. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 307:F1013-22
Chappell, Mark C; Marshall, Allyson C; Alzayadneh, Ebaa M et al. (2014) Update on the Angiotensin converting enzyme 2-Angiotensin (1-7)-MAS receptor axis: fetal programing, sex differences, and intracellular pathways. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne) 4:201
Marshall, Allyson C; Shaltout, Hossam A; Pirro, Nancy T et al. (2014) Enhanced activity of an angiotensin-(1-7) neuropeptidase in glucocorticoid-induced fetal programming. Peptides 52:74-81

Showing the most recent 10 out of 48 publications