Changes in plasma glucose and glucose and glycogen content in fetal erythrocytes (FRBCs) were studied in rats between days 15 and 21 of gestation and in adult rats. Plasma and FRBC glucose concentrations increased during fetal life and were higher in erythrocytes than in plasma. Glycogen was higher in FRBCs than in adult erythrocytes and tended to decrease from day 15 to 19 of gestation and to increase again on day 21. When FRBCs were incubated in vitro in different glucose concentrations to study their capacity to compensate for changes in plasma glucose concentration, younger cells showed better glucose-buffering capacities. Glucose and glycogen levels in FRBCs increased when they were incubated in high-glucose medium, and the glycogen concentration reached was higher in the early fetal stage than by the end of gestation. Nevertheless, adult erythrocytes accumulated more glycogen in highglucose medium than cells from any of the fetalaged erythrocytes. When glucose was injected intraperitoneally into fetuses of different ages, there was an increase of 3.7 μM/ml in glucose concentration in blood from the umbilical artery and 2.5 μM/ml in blood from the umbilical vein. FRBCs buffered some of this change, as evident by an increase in glycogen content. Again, buffering capacity was greater for erythrocytes in younger fetuses. Epinephrine diminished glycogen concentration in venous FRBCs on days 19 and 21 of gestation even in hyperglycemia. Insulin diminished glucose concentration in arterial plasma on days 17 and 21 of gestation, but there were no changes in glucose and glycogen in FRBCs. FRBCs play an important role in glucose homeostasis, facilitating glucose transport in the placenta and increasing glucose delivery to other fetal tissues.

This content is only available via PDF.