Taurine and taurine-deficiency in the perinatal period

L. Aerts and F. A. Van Assche


Taurine, a non-protein sulfur amino-acid, is the most abundant free amino-acid in the body and plays an important role in several essential biological processes. Apart from its role in cholesterol degradation, it acts as neurotransmitter, and has a function as osmoregulator and antioxydant in most body tissues. During pregnancy, taurine accumulates in the maternal tissues, to be released in the perinatal period to the fetus via the placenta and to the newborn via the maternal milk. It is accumulated especially in the fetal and neonatal brain. Low maternal taurine levels result in low fetal taurine levels. Taurine-deficiency in the mother leads to growth retardation of the offspring, and to impaired perinatal development of the central nervous system and of the endocrine pancreas. The adult offspring of taurine-deficient mothers display signs of impaired neurological function, impaired glucose tolerance and vascular dysfunction; they may develop gestational diabetes and transmit the effects to the next generation. This transgeneration effect of taurine-deficiency in the perinatal period fits into the concept of fetal origin of adult disease.

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