European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 146, Issue 2, pp 113–122 | Cite as

Interaction between endocrine and paracrine peptides in prenatal growth control

  • R. D. G. Milner
  • D. J. Hill


The evidence reviewed here shows that the endocrinology of fetal growth is very different from that operating postnatally. Pituitary hormones play little part in stimulating growth of the lean body mass or skeleton although growth hormone (GH) may be involved, in some as yet ill defined way in the ontogeny of the fetal pancreatic islet and insulin secretion. Insulin is important because it stimulates fetal cellular anabolism but acts in a permissive manner: with too little insulin growth is inhibited, with too much growth proceeds at a genetically predetermined rate. Placental lactogen (PL), or other peptides within the GH/PL family, may act as a true growth-promoting hormone in the fetus; it stimulates both cellular metabolism and mitosis. The part played by endocrine control mechanisms in the fetus is set in context by an appreciation of the importance of locally acting tissue growth factors, and in particular the somatomedins. Their part in fetal growth control is intimately bound up with the plane of nutrition experienced by the fetus. It is concluded that the simplest analysis that makes biological sense involves a consideration of hormones, tissue growth factors and nutrition, not hierarchically but as mutually interacting variables.

Key words

Prenatal growth Nutrition Insulin Placental lactogen Tissue growth factors 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. D. G. Milner
    • 1
  • D. J. Hill
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PaediatricsUniversity of Sheffield, Children's HospitalSheffieldEngland

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