Moritz Group - Developmental programming in disease

The aim of our laboratory is to understand how prenatal perturbations contribute to an increased risk of developing adult-onset disease in offspring. This research area provides evidence for a now well-known hypothesis known as the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD). By identifying organs and systems that are affected by prenatal insults, this provides us with a chance to intervene and prevent the burden of many chronic diseases in the Australian population. Our lab uses preclinical models that mimic common prenatal insults, such as stress and alcohol exposure, and conducts detailed analyses of offspring development and adult offspring metabolic, cardiovascular, renal, reproductive and neurological/behavioural function. Specific organs of interest include the kidney, placenta, heart, brain and ovary. We also have clinical projects available with collaborators at the Mater Research Institute/Translational Research Institute and the Child Health Research Centre that specifically look at the implications of maternal insults during pregnancy on placental morphology/function and kidney development.

Long-term intergenerational implications of prenatal perturbations
Developmental Origins of Health and Disease: Long-term intergenerational implications of prenatal perturbations. (From: Cheong et al, 2016 ).


All projects may be available at both Honours and PhD level.

Diagrammatic representation of cycloid arcs test system to estimate lengths of renal tubules
Diagrammatic representation of cycloid arcs test system to estimate lengths of renal tubules (from Walton et al, 2016 ).

Our lab utilises a variety of whole animal/in vivo physiology, in vitro cell culture, molecular biology (protein and mRNA), histology/stereology and behavioural assays. This includes:

  • Quantitative real-time PCR for gene expression analysis
  • Western blot for protein quantification
  • Immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence for protein localisation in tissues
  • Immunofluorescence of cell types within the pre-implantation blastocyst
  • In situ hybridisation of trophoblast cell types within the immature and definitive placenta
  • Pre-clinical animal models
  • Langendorff heart perfusion assays to measure cardiac function in vitro or isolated perfused heart assay to examine cardiac contractile strength and heart rate in vitro.
  • Pressurised myography to measure physiological function and properties of isolated vessels
  • Radiotelemetry measurement of blood pressure, heart rate and activity in freely moving animals
  • In vitro culture to measure trophoblast outgrowth of pre-implantation blastocysts and their differentiation into invasive giant cells
  • Cell culture of trophoblast stem cells to examine differentiation into downstream lineage restricted subtypes
  • Histology and histopathology
  • Microscopy (including confocal)
  • Stereology for assessment of nephron endowment in the kidney, renal tubule length in the kidney, follicle numbers in the ovary and volume measurements for specific cell compartments in the placenta
  • Non-invasive behavioural testing to assess neurological function in rodents, including measures of anxiety, exploratory behaviour and spatial learning/memory
  • Measurement of hormones in plasma by RIA and ELISA
  • Metabolic assessments such as insulin tolerance test (ITT) and glucose tolerance test (GTT) in rodents
  • DEXA for body composition measurement in rodents

NB: All animal experimentation is subject to approval by the University of Queensland Animal Ethics Committee and adheres to the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (National Health and Medical Research Council, 8th Edition, 2013).

Group Head




Cheong JN, Cuffe JS, Jefferies AJ, Anevska K, Moritz KM, Wlodek ME.
Sex-specific metabolic outcomes in offspring of female rats born small or exposed to stress during pregnancy.
Endocrinology, 157(11):4104-4120.
URL: Cheong et al, 2016

Cuffe JS, Turton EL, Akison LK, Bielefeldt-Ohmann H, Moritz KM.
Prenatal corticosterone programs sex specific adrenal adaptations in mouse offspring.
J Endocrinol, 17 Oct, Epub ahead of print.
URL: Cuffe et al, 2016

Kalisch-Smith JI, Outhwaite JE, Simmons DG, Pantaleon M, Moritz KM.
Alcohol exposure impairs trophoblast survival and alters subtype-specific gene expression in vitro.
Placenta, 46:87-91.
URL: Kalisch-Smith et al, 2016

Schlegel RN, Moritz KM, Paravicini TM
Maternal hypomagnesemia alters renal function but does not program changes in the cardiovascular physiology of adult offspring.
J Dev Orig Health Dis, 7(5):473-480.
URL: Schlegel et al, 2016

Walton SL, Singh RR, Tan T, Paravicini TM, Moritz KM.
Late gestational hypoxia and a postnatal high salt diet programs endothelial dysfunction and arterial stiffness in adult mouse offspring.
J Physiol, 594(5):1451-63.
URL: Walton et al, 2016


Schlegel RN, Cuffe JS, Moritz KM, Paravicini TM
Maternal hypomagnesemia causes placental abnormalities and fetal and postnatal mortality.
Placenta, 36(7):750-8.
URL: Schlegel et al, 2015

Gardebjer EM, Anderson ST, Pantaleon M, Wlodek ME, Moritz KM
Maternal alcohol intake around the time of conception causes glucose intolerance and insulin insensitivity in rat offspring, which is exacerbated by a postnatal high-fat diet.
FASEBJ, 29(7):2690-701.
URL: Gardebjer et al, 2015

O’Sullivan L, Cuffe JS, Koning A, Singh RR, Paravicini TM, Moritz KM.
Excess prenatal corticosterone exposure results in albuminuria, sex-specific hypotension, and altered heart rate responses to restraint stress in aged adult mice.
Am J Physiol Renal Physiol, 308(10):F1065-73.
URL: O'Sullivan et al, 2015

Cuffe JS, Steane S, Moritz KM, Paravicini TM.
Differential mRNA expression and glucocorticoid-mediated regulation of TRPM6 and TRPM7 in the heart and kidney throughout murine pregnancy and development.
PloS One, 10(2):e0117978.
URL: Cuffe et al, 2015


Cuffe JS, Walton SL, Steane SE, Singh RR, Simmons DG, Moritz KM.
The effects of gestational age and maternal hypoxia on the placental renin angiotensin system in the mouse.
Placenta, 35(11):953-61
URL: Cuffe et al, 2014

Nguyen VB, Probyn ME, Campbell F, Yin KV, Samuel CS, Zimanyi MA, Bertram JF, Black MJ, Moritz KM.
Low-dose maternal alcohol consumption: effects in the hearts of offspring in early life and adulthood.
Physiol Rep, 2(7):e12087.
URL: Nguyen et al, 2014

Cuffe JS, Walton SL, Singh RR, Spiers JG, Bielefeldt-Ohmann H, Wilkinson L, Little MH, Moritz KM.
Mid- to late term hypoxia in the mouse alters placental morphology, glucocorticoid regulatory pathways and nutrient transporters in a sex-specific manner.
J Physiol, 592(14):3127-41.
URL: Cuffe et al, 2014

Gardebjer EM, Cuffe JS, Pantaleon M, Wlodek ME, Moritz KM.
Periconceptional alcohol consumption causes fetal growth restriction and increases glycogen accumulation in the late gestation rat placenta.
Placenta, 35(1):50-7.

URL: Gardebjer et al, 2014

Complete List of Moritz Lab Publications

To access the full list of publications from the Moritz lab, please visit our NCBI My Bibliography.

Dr David Simmons
School of Biomedical Sciences
Mater Medical Research Institute
Translational Research Institute
The University of Queensland

Dr Marloes Nitert Dekker
School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Centre for Clinical Research
The University of Queensland

Dr Oliver Raweshdeh
School of Biomedical Sciences
The University of Queensland

Prof Mary Wlodek
Department of Physiology
The University of Melbourne

Prof Vicki Clifton
Mater Medical Research Institute
Translational Research Institute
The University of Queensland

Dr Joan Li
Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
The University of Queensland 

Find out more about our research environment and how to apply to do a short or long-term research project with us.