Circulating levels of growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-I and prolactin in normal, growth retarded and anencephalic human fetuses

M. Arosio, D. Cortelazzi, L. Persani, E. Palmieri, G. Casati, A. M. Baggiani, G. Gambino, Paolo Beck-Peccoz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We measured growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), and both total and glycosylated prolactin (PRL) levels in 131 blood samples obtained by cordocentesis in normal and abnormal fetuses from 19 to 40 weeks of gestation. In normal fetuses, IGF-I and PRL levels showed a positive correlation and GH a negative correlation with gestational age. A negative relation between GH and IGF-I levels was observed, while PRL did not show any correlation with both GH and IGF-I concentrations. IGF-I increased from 5.6±3 (at 19–22 weeks) to 10.7±5 nmol/l at term; GH decreased from 31±10 to 7.7±4 μg/l and PRL increased from 16±18 to 139±76 μg/l. Glycosylated PRL accounted for about 15% of total PRL, a value similar to that found in normal adults. In 27 fetuses of 27–37 weeks with intra-uterine growth retardation, GH and PRL levels were higher and IGF-I levels lower than in normal fetuses matched for week of gestation. In 8 anencephalic fetuses of 19–26 weeks of gestation, both GH and IGF-I levels were lower, and PRL levels were higher than in matched controls. Altogether these data support the views that a) both GH and PRL secretion are under the hypothalamic control during fetal development, b) the serum GH decrease from midgestation to the end of pregnancy is mediated by the negative feed-back mechanism of increasing IGF-I levels and c) IGF-I production is mainly regulated by fuel supply and only partially by GH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-353
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1995



  • anencephalic fetuses
  • circulating levels of GH
  • Fetal development
  • IGF-I
  • IUGR fetuses
  • normal fetuses
  • PRL and glycosylated PRL

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

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