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J Reprod Fertil Suppl. 1999;54:401-10.

Placental transport of nutrients and its implications for fetal growth.

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Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Placental growth during early and mid-pregnancy has a powerful, constraining influence on fetal growth during late pregnancy. Studies involving surgical and environmental reduction of placental size in sheep have shown an associated reduction in capacity to transport oxygen, glucose and amino acids. Oxygen transport is limited by placental blood flow but transport of glucose and amino acids is determined by the abundance and activity of specific transport proteins. Glucose transporters include the GLUT1 and GLUT3 isoforms previously identified in brain and other tissues; systems for active transport of amino acids have been inferred but not characterized. Placental metabolism of glucose and amino acids has major effects both on the quantity of carbon and nitrogen delivered to the fetus, and on the composition of substrates involved. For example, the uteroplacental tissues consume more than 60% of uterine glucose uptake during late pregnancy, and the placenta substantially modifies the pattern of amino acids delivered to fetal blood. The placenta also participates in the array of metabolic adaptations of maternal and conceptus tissues to altered maternal nutrient supply. Placental capacity for glucose transport in moderately undernourished ewes is upregulated, partly by increased expression of the GLUT3 transport protein. During more severe glucose deprivation, placental transfer and fetal uptake of glucose are constrained in proportion with maternal supply, leading to fetal growth retardation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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