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Experimental Diabetes Research
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 105076, 16 pages
Review Article

Early-Life Origins of Type 2 Diabetes: Fetal Programming of the Beta-Cell Mass

Université Paris-Diderot, Sorbonne-Paris-Cité, Laboratoire B2PE (Biologie et Pathologie du Pancréas Endocrine), Unité BFA (Biologie Fonctionnelle et Adaptive), EAC 4413 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 75205 Paris, France

Received 30 May 2011; Revised 2 August 2011; Accepted 2 August 2011

Academic Editor: Christine Maric-Bilkan

Copyright © 2011 Bernard Portha et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A substantial body of evidence suggests that an abnormal intrauterine milieu elicited by maternal metabolic disturbances as diverse as undernutrition, placental insufficiency, diabetes or obesity, may program susceptibility in the fetus to later develop chronic degenerative diseases, such as obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. This paper examines the developmental programming of glucose intolerance/diabetes by disturbed intrauterine metabolic condition experimentally obtained in various rodent models of maternal protein restriction, caloric restriction, overnutrition or diabetes, with a focus on the alteration of the developing beta-cell mass. In most of the cases, whatever the type of initial maternal metabolic stress, the beta-cell adaptive growth which normally occurs during gestation, does not take place in the pregnant offspring and this results in the development of gestational diabetes. Therefore gestational diabetes turns to be the ultimate insult targeting the offspring beta-cell mass and propagates diabetes risk to the next generation again. The aetiology and the transmission of spontaneous diabetes as encountered in the GK/Par rat model of type 2 diabetes, are discussed in such a perspective. This review also discusses the non-genomic mechanisms involved in the installation of the programmed effect as well as in its intergenerational transmission.