Clinical Pharmacokinetics

, Volume 41, Issue 12, pp 959–998

Ontogeny of Hepatic and Renal Systemic Clearance Pathways in Infants Part I

Review Article Special Populations


Dramatic developmental changes in the physiological and biochemical processes that govern drug pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics occur during the first year of life. These changes may have significant consequences for the way infants respond to and dealwith drugs. The ontogenesis of systemic clearance mechanisms is probably the most critical determinant of a pharmacological response in the developing infant. In recent years, advances in molecular techniques and an increased availability of fetal and infant tissues have afforded enhanced insight into the ontogeny of clearance mechanisms. Information from these studies is reviewed to highlight the dynamic and complex nature of developmental changes in clearance mechanisms in infants during the first year of life.

Hepatic and renal elimination mechanisms constitute the two principal clearance pathways of the developing infant. Drug metabolising enzyme activity is primarily responsible for the hepatic clearance of many drugs. In general, when compared with adult activity levels normalised to amount of hepatic microsomal protein, hepatic cytochrome P450-mediated metabolism and the phase II reactions of glucuronidation, glutathione conjugation and acetylation are deficient in the neonate, but sulfate conjugation is an efficient pathway at birth. Parturition triggers the dramatic development of drug metabolising enzymes, and each enzyme demonstrates an independent rate and pattern of maturation. Marked inter-individual variability is associated with their developmental expression, making the ontogenesis of hepatic metabolism a highly variable process. By the first year of life, most enzymes have matured to adult activity levels.

When compared with adult values, renal clearance mechanisms are compromised at birth. Dramatic increases in renal function occur in the ensuing postpar-tum period, and by 6 months of age glomerular filtration rate normalised to bodyweight has approached adult values. Maturation of renal tubular functions exhibits a more protracted time course of development, resulting in a glomerulotubular imbalance. This imbalance exists until adult renal tubule function values are approached by 1 year of age. The ontogeny of hepatic biliary and renal tubular transport processes and their impact on the elimination of drugs remain largely unknown.

The summary of the current understanding of the ontogeny of individual pathways of hepatic and renal elimination presented in this review should serve as a basis for the continued accruement of age-specific information concerning the ontogeny of clearance mechanisms in infants. Such information can only help to improve the pharmacotherapeutic management of paediatric patients.

Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Pharmaceutical SciencesCollege of Pharmacy, University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.University of Kentucky, College of PharmacyLexingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations