Metabolic adaptation of fetal hindlimb to severe, nonlethal hypoxia

D. W. Boyle, G. Meschia, R. B. Wilkening

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29 Scopus citations


To test the hypothesis that an important aspect of the fetal response to severe, nonlethal hypoxia is a relatively large reduction in oxidative metabolism and small increase in lactate production by organs whose O2 supply is selectively reduced, net fluxes of O2, glucose, pyruvate, lactate, and CO2 derived from fetal plasma lactate carbon [(CO2)(PL)] were measured across the hindlimb and umbilical circulations in six sheep fetuses before and at 200-260 min of hypoxia. During hypoxia, blood lactate reached a high but steady level (15.2 ± 2.2 vs. 1.7 ± 0.2 mM; P < 0.001). Hypoxia was induced by reducing uterine blood flow. Limb O2 uptake and (CO2)(PL) decreased (P < 0.01) and lactate output increased (P < 0.05) (-83.1 ± 13.9, -28.6 ± 5.0, and +35.7 ± 13.7 nmol · min-1 · g-1, respectively), while pyruvate and glucose uptakes remained similar to control. The increase in limb glycolysis was ~10% of the value that would compensate for the decrease in oxidative energy metabolism. The ratio of limb O2 uptake to fetus O2 uptake decreased significantly (0.247 ± 0.029 vs. 0.447 ± 0.036; P < 0.01). In contrast to fetal limb (CO2)(PL), fetal (CO2)(PL) did not decrease. During severe, nonlethal hypoxia, fetal survival depends on uneven and counterbalancing organ O2 uptake and lactate metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R1130-R1135
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number5 32-5
StatePublished - 1992


  • fetal hypoxia
  • fetal oxygen uptake
  • lactic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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