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Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is an independent risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases later in life. The mechanisms whereby slowed intrauterine growth confers vascular risk are not clearly established. In general, a disturbed cholesterol efflux has been linked to atherosclerosis. The capacity of serum to accept cholesterol has been repeatedly evaluated in clinical studies by the use of macrophage-based cholesterol efflux assays and, if disturbed, precedes atherosclerotic diseases years before the clinical diagnosis. We now hypothesized that circulating cholesterol acceptors in IUGR sera specifically interfere with cholesterol transport mechanisms leading to diminished cholesterol efflux.RAW264.7 cells were used to determine efflux of [3H]-cholesterol in response to [umbilical cord serum (IUGR), n=20; controls (CTRL), n=20].Cholesterol efflux was lower in IUGR as compared to controls [controls: mean 7.7% fractional [3H]-cholesterol efflux, standard deviation (SD)=0.98; IUGR: mean 6.3%, SD=0.79; P<0.0001]. Values strongly correlated to HDL (ρ=0.655, P<0.0001) and apoE (ρ=0.510, P=0.0008), and mildly to apoA1 (ρ=0.3926, P=0.0122) concentrations.Reduced cholesterol efflux in IUGR could account for the enhanced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases later in life.