Placental fatty acid transport across late gestation in a baboon model of intrauterine growth restriction

Stephanie S. Chassen, Veronique Ferchaud-Roucher, Claire Palmer, Cun Li, Thomas Jansson, Peter W. Nathanielsz, Theresa L. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Key points: Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is associated with perinatal morbidity and increased risk of lifelong disease, including neurodevelopmental impairment. Fatty acids (FA) are critical for normal brain development, although their transport across the placenta in IUGR pregnancies is poorly understood. The present study used a baboon model of IUGR (maternal nutrient restriction, MNR) to investigate placental expression of FA transport and binding proteins, and to determine gestational age-related changes in maternal and fetal plasma FA concentrations. We found MNR to be associated with increased placental expression of FA binding and transport proteins in late gestation, with fetal plasma FA concentrations that were similar to those of control animals. The present study is the first to report a profile of fetal and maternal plasma FA concentrations in a baboon model of growth restriction with data that suggest adaptation of placental transport to maintain delivery of critically needed FA. Abstract: Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is associated with specific changes in placental transport of amino acids, folate and ions. However, little is known about placental fatty acid (FA) transport in IUGR. We hypothesized that placental FA transport proteins (FATP) and FA binding proteins (FABP) are up-regulated and fetal plasma FA concentrations are decreased at term in a baboon model of IUGR. Pregnant baboons were fed control or maternal nutrient restricted (MNR) diet (70% of control calories) from gestation day (GD) 30 (term 184 days). Plasma and placental samples were collected at GD120 (control n = 8, MNR n = 9), GD140 (control n = 6, MNR n = 7) and GD170 (control n = 6, MNR n = 6). Placentas were homogenized, and syncytiotrophoblast microvillous plasma membrane (MVM) and basal plasma membranes (BM) were isolated. Protein expression of FABP1, 3, 4 and 5 (homogenate) and FATP2, 4, and 6 (MVM, BM) was determined by Western blotting. FA content in maternal and umbilical vein plasma was measured by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Placental FABP1 and FABP5 expression was increased in MNR compared to controls at GD170, as was MVM FATP2 and FATP6 expression at GD140 and FATP2 expression at GD170. BM FATP4 and FATP6 expression was increased in MNR at GD140. Fetal plasma FA concentrations were similar in controls and MNR. These data suggest the adaptation of placental transport when aiming to maintain delivery of critically needed FAs for fetal growth and brain development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2469-2489
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • fatty acid binding proteins
  • fatty acid transport proteins
  • fetal growth
  • long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • maternal nutrient restriction
  • maternal-fetal exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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