Placental insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) and its relation to litter size in the common marmoset monkey (Callithrix jacchus)

Julienne N. Rutherford, Amy Eklund, Tardif Suzette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The primate placenta produces a wide variety of hormones throughout gestation that regulate placental function and fetal growth. One such hormone is insulin-like growth factor-II (IGF-II), a peptide implicated in cell division, differentiation, and amino acid transport. IGF-II concentrations were measured in 23 common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) term placentas from twin and triplet litters in order to determine whether previously described differences in fetoplacental phenotype such as placental and litter mass and placental surface area were related to differences in endocrine function. IGF-II was extracted from frozen tissue samples and measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit designed for human tissue, which was validated for marmoset placenta. IGF-II concentrations were not related to placental or litter mass, and twin and triplet placentas did not differ in total concentration. However, per individual fetus, triplets were associated with a significant 42% reduction in IGF-II concentration (P = 0.03), and IGF-II concentration per gram of fetal mass was a third lower in triplet litters. The triplet placenta exhibits a global expansion of the surface area which was contrasted by a per unit area reduction in IGF-II concentration (r= - 0.75, P = 0.01), a pattern that explains why twin and triplet placentas overall did not differ in concentration. Per fetus, triplet pregnancies are associated with relatively less maternal mass, placental mass and microscopic surface area suggesting that the intrauterine growth of triplets is supported by systems that increase the efficiency of nutrient transfer. The finding that individual triplet fetuses are also associated with significantly lower IGF-II concentrations is consistent with the view that the marmoset fetoplacental unit exhibits a flexible pattern of placental allocation and metabolism. Plasticity in placental endocrine and metabolic function is likely to play an important role in the ability of the fetus to sense and accommodate the intrauterine environment and, by extension, the external ecology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)969-975
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Callitrichidae
  • Endocrinology
  • Litter size
  • Placenta
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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