The developmental origin of hypertension and renal disease is a concept highly supported by strong evidence coming from both human and animal studies. During development there are periods in which the organs are more vulnerable to stressors. Such periods of susceptibility are also called ‘sensitive windows of exposure’. It was shown that as earlier an adverse event occurs; the greater are the consequences for health impairment. However, evidence show that the postnatal period is also quite important for hypertension and renal disease programming, especially in rodents because they complete nephrogenesis postnatally, and it is also important during preterm human birth.
Considering that the developing kidney is vulnerable to early-life stressors, renal programming is a key element in the developmental programming of hypertension and renal disease.
The purpose of this review is to highlight the great number of studies, most of them performed in animal models, showing the broad range of stressors involved in hypertension and renal disease programming, with a particular focus on the stressors that occur during the early postnatal period. These stressors mainly include undernutrition or specific nutritional deficits, chronic behavioral stress, exposure to environmental chemicals, and pharmacological treatments that affect some important factors involved in renal physiology.
We also discuss the common molecular mechanisms that are activated by the mentioned stressors and that promote the appearance of these adult diseases, with a brief description on some reprogramming strategies, which is a relatively new and promising field to treat or to prevent these diseases.