Journey to the center of the fetal brain: Environmental exposures and autophagy

Jun Lei, Pilar Calvo, Richard Vigh, Irina Burd

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Fetal brain development is known to be affected by adverse environmental exposures during pregnancy, including infection, inflammation, hypoxia, alcohol, starvation, and toxins. These exposures are thought to alter autophagy activity in the fetal brain, leading to adverse perinatal outcomes, such as cognitive and sensorimotor deficits. This review introduces the physiologic autophagy pathways in the fetal brain. Next, methods to detect and monitor fetal brain autophagy activity are outlined. An additional discussion explores possible mechanisms by which environmental exposures during pregnancy alter fetal brain autophagy activity. In the final section, a correlation of fetal autophagy activity with the observed postnatal phenotype is attempted. Our main purpose is to provide the current understanding or a lack thereof mechanisms on autophagy, underlying the fetal brain injury exposed to environmental insults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
StatePublished - May 3 2018


  • Adverse perinatal neurologic outcomes
  • Alcohol
  • Autophagy biomarkers
  • Fetal brain development
  • Pregnancy environmental exposures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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