Gastrointestinal and pancreatic hormones in the human fetus and mother at 18-21 weeks of gestation

T. E. Adrian, G. Soltesz, I. Z. MacKenzie, S. R. Bloom, Al Aynsley-Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Several gastrointestinal hormones appear to play an important developmental role in the newborn, particularly in preterm neonates. Although the cells producing these peptides develop towards the end of the first trimester, fetal secretion of these regulatory peptides has not hitherto been demonstrated. Using samples collected by fetoscopy at 19-21 weeks of gestation we have measured concentrations of several gastrointestinal and pancreatic hormones. Maternal venous and amniotic fluid hormone concentrations were measured simultaneously. Concentrations of the pancreatic hormones, insulin, glucagon and pancreatic polypeptide (PP) were similar in fetal and maternal blood. Gastrin and motilin were present in the fetal circulation but at about 30% (p < 0.05) and 60% (p < 0.01) of the maternal levels, respectively. In contrast, enteroglucagon concentrations were more than twofold higher in the fetal circulation compared with maternal levels (p < 0.05). Concentrations of gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) in fetal blood were higher than levels in maternal blood but not significantly. Concentrations of GIP (p < 0.001) were higher in the amniotic fluid than the fetal circulation. Gastrin and glucagon levels were similar in amniotic fluid and fetal blood. In contrast, PP and motilin were present in amniotic fluid, but at lower concentrations than in fetal blood. Enteroglucagon was not detectable in amniotic fluid. In conclusion, several alimentary hormones are secreted in the fetus at midterm. Since these peptides have trophic, secretory and motor effects on the gut, it is likely that these regulatory peptides are involved in the functional development of the fetal intestine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-53
Number of pages7
JournalBiology of the Neonate
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Enteroglucagon
  • Fetoscopy
  • Fetus
  • Gastrin
  • Glucagon
  • Insulin
  • Motilin gastric inhibitory polypeptide
  • Pancreatic polypeptide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental Biology


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