Skip to main content
Dimming the Powerhouse: Mitochondrial Dysfunction in the Liver and Skeletal Muscle of Intrauterine Growth Restricted Fetuses
Frontiers in Endocrinology
  • Alexander L. Pendleton
  • Stephanie R. Wesolowski
  • Timothy Regnault, Western University
  • Ronald M. Lynch
  • Sean M. Limesand
Document Type
Publication Date
URL with Digital Object Identifier

Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) of the fetus, resulting from placental insufficiency (PI), is characterized by low fetal oxygen and nutrient concentrations that stunt growth rates of metabolic organs. Numerous animal models of IUGR recapitulate pathophysiological conditions found in human fetuses with IUGR. These models provide insight into metabolic dysfunction in skeletal muscle and liver. For example, cellular energy production and metabolic rate are decreased in the skeletal muscle and liver of IUGR fetuses. These metabolic adaptations demonstrate that fundamental processes in mitochondria, such as substrate utilization and oxidative phosphorylation, are tempered in response to low oxygen and nutrient availability. As a central metabolic organelle, mitochondria coordinate cellular metabolism by coupling oxygen consumption to substrate utilization in concert with tissue energy demand and accretion. In IUGR fetuses, reducing mitochondrial metabolic capacity in response to nutrient restriction is advantageous to ensure fetal survival. If permanent, however, these adaptations may predispose IUGR fetuses toward metabolic diseases throughout life. Furthermore, these mitochondrial defects may underscore developmental programming that results in the sequela of metabolic pathologies. In this review, we examine how reduced nutrient availability in IUGR fetuses impacts skeletal muscle and liver substrate catabolism, and discuss how enzymatic processes governing mitochondrial function, such as the tricarboxylic acid cycle and electron transport chain, are regulated. Understanding how deficiencies in oxygen and substrate metabolism in response to placental restriction regulate skeletal muscle and liver metabolism is essential given the importance of these tissues in the development of later lifer metabolic dysfunction.

Citation Information
Alexander L. Pendleton, Stephanie R. Wesolowski, Timothy Regnault, Ronald M. Lynch, et al.. "Dimming the Powerhouse: Mitochondrial Dysfunction in the Liver and Skeletal Muscle of Intrauterine Growth Restricted Fetuses" Frontiers in Endocrinology Vol. 12 (2021)
Available at: