BACKGROUNDChildren born to mothers with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) experience increased risk of developing hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and obesity. Disrupted function of endothelial colony-forming cells (ECFCs) may contribute to this enhanced risk. The goal of this study was to determine whether cord blood ECFCs from GDM pregnancies exhibit altered functionality.METHODSECFCs isolated from the cord blood of control and GDM pregnancies were assessed for proliferation, senescence, and Matrigel network formation. The requirement for p38MAPK in hyperglycemia-induced senescence was determined using inhibition and overexpression studies.RESULTSGDM-exposed ECFCs were more proliferative than control ECFCs. However, GDM-exposed ECFCs exhibited decreased network-forming ability in Matrigel. Aging of ECFCs by serial passaging led to increased senescence and reduced proliferation of GDM-exposed ECFCs. ECFCs from GDM pregnancies were resistant to hyperglycemia-induced senescence compared with those from controls. In response to hyperglycemia, control ECFCs activated p38MAPK, which was required for hyperglycemia-induced senescence. In contrast, GDM-exposed ECFCs showed no change in p38MAPK activation under equivalent conditions.CONCLUSIONIntrauterine exposure of ECFCs to GDM induces unique phenotypic alterations. The resistance of GDM-exposed ECFCs to hyperglycemia-induced senescence and decreased p38MAPK activation suggest that these progenitor cells have undergone changes that induce tolerance to a hyperglycemic environment.