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Emily S Dorey, Marie Pantaleon, Kristy A Weir, and Karen M Moritz

The ‘developmental origins of health and disease’ hypothesis suggests that many adult-onset diseases can be attributed to altered growth and development during early life. Perturbations during gestation can be detrimental and lead to an increased risk of developing renal, cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurocognitive dysfunction in adulthood. The kidney has emerged as being especially vulnerable to insult at almost any stage of development resulting in a reduction in nephron endowment. In both humans and animal models, a reduction in nephron endowment is strongly associated with an increased risk of hypertension. The focus of this review is twofold: i) to determine the importance of specific periods during development on long-term programing and ii) to examine the effects of maternal perturbations on the developing kidney and how this may program adult-onset disease. Recent evidence has suggested that insults occurring around the time of conception also have the capacity to influence long-term health. Although epigenetic mechanisms are implicated in mediating these outcomes, it is unclear as to how these may impact on kidney development. This presents exciting new challenges and areas for research.

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Elizabeth K McReight, Seng H Liew, Sarah E Steane, Karla J Hutt, Karen M Moritz, and Lisa K Akison

Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) has been associated with reproductive dysfunction in offspring. However, studies in females, particularly examining long-term infertility or impacts on ovarian reserve, are lacking. The current study utilised a moderate, episodic exposure model in rats to mimic ‘special occasion’ drinking, which is reported to be common during pregnancy. Our objective was to examine the consequences of this prenatal alcohol exposure on reproductive parameters in female offspring. Pregnant Sprague–Dawley rats were treated with either an ethanol gavage (1 g EtOH/kg body weight), or an equivalent volume of saline, on embryonic days 13.5 and 14.5 of pregnancy, resulting in a peak blood alcohol concentration of ~0.04%. Neonatal female offspring were examined for molecular markers regulating early follicle numbers in the ovary, and unbiased stereology was used to quantify primordial and early growing follicle numbers. Puberty onset (age at vaginal opening and first estrous) was measured post-weaning, and estrous cycles, reproductive hormones (progesterone and estradiol) and pregnancy success was measured in adults (5–6 months of age). We found no evidence that any of these reproductive parameters were significantly altered by PAE in this model. This animal study provides some reassurance for women who may have consumed a small amount of alcohol during their pregnancy. However, previously published effects on offspring metabolism using this model reinforce avoidance of alcohol during pregnancy.