Adaptations in placental nutrient transfer capacity to meet fetal growth demands depend on placental size in mice

P. M. Coan*, E. Angiolini, I. Sandovici, G. J. Burton, M. Constancia, A. L. Fowden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Experimental reduction in placental growth often leads to increased placental efficiency measured as grams of fetus produced per gram of placenta, although little is known about the mechanisms involved. This study tested the hypothesis that the smallest placenta within a litter is the most efficient at supporting fetal growth by examining the natural intra-litter variation in placental nutrient transfer capacity in normal pregnant mice. The morphology, nutrient transfer and expression of key growth and nutrient supply genes (Igf2P0, Grb10, Slc2a1, Slc2a3, Slc38a1, Slc38a2 and Slc38a4) were compared in the lightest and heaviest placentas of a litter at days 16 and 19 of pregnancy, when mouse fetuses are growing most rapidly in absolute terms. The data show that there are morphological and functional adaptations in the lightest placenta within a litter, which increase active transport of amino acids per gram of placenta and maintain normal fetal growth close to term, despite the reduced placental mass. The specific placental adaptations differ with age. At E16, they are primarily morphological with an increase in the volume fraction of the labyrinthine zone responsible for nutrient exchange, whereas at E19 they are more functional with up-regulated placental expression of the glucose transporter gene, Slc2a1/GLUT1 and one isoform the System A family of amino acid transporters, Slc38a2/SNAT2. Thus, this adaptability in placental phenotype provides a functional reserve capacity for maximizing fetal growth during late gestation when placental growth is compromised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4567-4576
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2008

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