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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.