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Diabetologia. 2006 Jun;49(6):1292-302. Epub 2006 Mar 29.

Secretion of adiponectin by human placenta: differential modulation of adiponectin and its receptors by cytokines.

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Biomedical Research Institute, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Gibbet Hill Road, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK.



Pregnancy, a state of insulin resistance, is associated with elevated levels of cytokines and profound alterations in metabolism. Serum adiponectin, an adipokine with anti-inflammatory and insulin-sensitising properties, has been shown to be lower in patients with gestational diabetes mellitus, a state of greater insulin resistance than normal pregnancies. Hypothesising that the human placenta is a source of adiponectin, we investigated its expression and secretion, and the regulation by cytokines of adiponectin and its receptors.


Real-time RT-PCR, radioimmunoassay, Western blotting, radioligand binding and immunofluorescent analyses were applied to demonstrate the expression, secretion and functionality of placental adiponectin.


Adiponectin gene expression and protein were found in the human term placenta, with expression primarily in the syncytiotrophoblast. RIA of conditioned media from explant experiments revealed that the placenta can secrete adiponectin in vitro. Addition of conditioned media to HEK-293 cells transfected with the gene for adiponectin receptor-1 (ADIPOR1) altered the phosphorylation status of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, an effect abolished after preabsorption with adiponectin antibody. Cytokines, including TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, IL-6 and leptin, differentially modulated placental adiponectin receptors as well as adiponectin gene expression and secretion. Interestingly, in placentae from women with gestational diabetes mellitus, we observed significant downregulation of adiponectin mRNA, significant upregulation of ADIPOR1 expression, and a non-significant increase in ADIPOR2 expression.


Our results indicate that the human placenta produces and secretes adiponectin, and that adiponectin and its receptors are differentially regulated by cytokines and their expression altered in women with gestational diabetes mellitus. Collectively, our novel data suggest that adiponectin may play a role in adapting energy metabolism at the materno-fetal interface.

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