Moderate Maternal Nutrient Restriction, but not Glucocorticoid Administration, Leads to Placental Morphological Changes in the Baboon (Papio sp.)

N. Schlabritz-Loutsevitch, B. Ballesteros, C. Dudley, S. Jenkins, G. Hubbard, G. J. Burton, P. Nathanielsz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The aims of the present study were to describe the ontogeny of spatial relationships between placental components in baboons and to investigate alterations in these indices following (1) moderate maternal nutrient restriction and (2) administration of glucocorticoids to pregnant baboons. We investigated the effects of glucocorticoids since they have been shown to play a role in the altered fetal growth that accompanies maternal nutrient restriction. Glucocorticoids are also given to pregnant women who threaten premature labor to accelerate fetal lung maturation. A third aim was to compare our findings to those in similar conditions in human pregnancy. Volumetric placental development in the baboon was similar to that in the human, although growth of fetal capillaries was slower over the second half of gestation in baboon than in human placentas. Intervillous space (IVS) and villous star volumes were halved at the end of gestation compared to the middle of gestation, as described in the human placenta. When mothers were fed 70% of feed eaten by controls fed ad libitum, placental volumetric structure was unchanged at mid-gestation but was altered by the end of gestation when placental weight, but not fetal weight or length, was decreased. At the end of gestation villous volume and surface area, capillary surface area, and the villous isomorphic coefficient were all decreased, In contrast, IVS hydraulic diameter was increased. All parameters were similar in pregnancies with male and female fetuses, with the exception of fetal capillary volume, which was unchanged in pooled samples and those from male fetuses, but decreased in pregnancies with female fetuses. Glucocorticoid administration during the second half of gestation did not produce any changes in the measured indices of placental composition. In summary, these changes in placental structure, associated with maternal nutrient restriction, would all act to decrease placental transport of nutrients. The influence of MNR on villous capillarization depends on fetal gender.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)783-793
Number of pages11
Issue number8-9
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Baboon
  • Fetus
  • Function
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Maternal nutrient restriction
  • Placenta
  • Structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology


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